Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church member Sue Derbyshire, along with five other church members, decided in April to take on a major project to help others - the group planned to plant fresh vegetables to provide good healthy foods to those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to buy it.
The group, including Derbyshire, Judy Guye-Swanson, Monica Varchetto, Bronwyn Bear, Betty Legg and Robin Mams, planted a 500-foot by 250-foot garden, and donated the harvested produce to Catholic Charities West Virginia.
Derbyshire said she plants a large garden every year.
Elkins resident Judy Guye-Swanson shows a sampling of the fresh vegetables her group of friends raised and donated to Catholic Charities West Virginia this fall.
"I grew up in a family where we always had a large garden," Derbyshire said. "I know there are lots of folks that cannot afford to buy groceries, especially fresh produce."
Derbyshire said she talked with the women of her church, and they decided the garden was a good plan to help give to others. She said she rented the space, and when the owners found out the group's plan, they returned the rent money.
The group planted many items including cabbage, corn, zucchini, squash, onions, kale, lettuce, cucumbers, sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes and green beans.
"This was not a good year for gardens," Derbyshire said. "It was a horrible year with lots of weeds, but we ended up harvesting and donating 484 pounds of fresh vegetables to Catholic Charities to help those in need."
Derbyshire said the summer was very warm, making it hard to spend large amounts of time working in the garden. She said one day, she walked down to the garden to find 6 to 8 inches of water flowing like a river through their vegetables.
"When the water from the flood went down, we found we had lost all of our potato crop," Derbyshire said. "We worked so hard, and God knew when to flood our garden. We had a good time doing this, and our hope is that our hard work will inspire others to take on a project like this to help others."
Teresa Wymer, case manager and outreach coordinator for Catholic Charities, said she was proud of the project and said the produce was an important part of the food pantry.
"The fresh produce we received from the Presbyterian Church garden is an important part of the Wellness Works concept in our food pantry," Wymer said. "The program encourages nutritional changes to address chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease - fresh foods are the best way to help with that. For our food pantry, we ask clients what ailments they have because we have foods available that are low sodium, low sugar or sugar free."
Wymer said Catholic Charities provides written information about what foods you should and should not eat, depending on the ailment.
"In the Catholic Charities food pantry, you have choices as to the amount of foods you can get and what foods you would like," Wymer said. "We like to provide a variety of canned fruits and vegetables, pastas, breakfast foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and sometimes breads, deserts, drinks and meat.
"Our supply of fresh fruits and vegetables is solely dependent upon donations from the community. We are very appreciative to the Presbyterian Church for all the hard work they put in to help those in need in our community giving them the opportunity to acquire fresh vegetables," Wymer said. "Many of our participants are not able to afford fresh foods unless they grow them themselves."
While Derbyshire said the group is not planning to raise a garden next summer, she said she would be willing to help others with a gift garden if needed.