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In a collaborative garden, women raise fresh starts

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 8:11 am

The Redemption House and Catherine Kasper Place have come together in a collaboration that benefits both nonprofits.

Redemption House, a faith-based nonprofit that works with women suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, who might otherwise be sentenced to jail, and Catherine Kasper Place, a nonprofit that helps immigrants, refugees and political asylees to integrate into the community through social, spiritual and economic independence and strategic networking, have come together through a gardening project.

For the past several years through the Fresh Food Initiative, clients of CKP have been given access to free raised (plant) beds and farmland, seeds, tools and technical assistance in gardening and marketing produce. This year CKP has added a program called the new farm management-training program. Refugee participants are paid interns who complete nine training modules including financial literacy, crop management, business management sales and marketing, and grow it forward.

In "grow it forward," the trainees have to go into the community and teach a nonprofit how to set up a garden. In the farm management program, they must speak English only. Speaking English to others seems to stick better than things they learn in a traditional classroom.

Holly Chaille, CKP executive director, said they ask the partner to provide a sunny spot and water source, plus staff or clients who will commit to managing the garden for the season. They work with them to determine vegetables and herbs to grow and help them prep the ground and plant the seeds and seedlings. They also come back out two or three times over the season to check in, help with any issues, identify weeds or pests, and show them how to prune plants and save seeds for next year.

In return the Redemption House has gained a garden which provides residents with fresh foods, and their clients are learning gardening skills as well as how to use the food they grow to prepare nutritious meals using the fruits of their labors, so to speak.

Tuesday morning, clients from both nonprofits worked through the garden pulling weeds, harvesting vegetables and tending flowers. Chaille shared a low-calorie recipe for cream cheese, encouraging Redemption House clients to create their own spread for bagels using chives and dill from their garden.

Redemption House, formerly Wings of Hope, was renamed a year ago. Tomi Cardin, its new executive director, would like to redo the kitchen into an industrial style so clients can learn culinary skills to take into the work force. She said they are in the process of applying for grants to help with this as well as looking for private funding or people who could share their skills with them to revamp the kitchen. Besides substance rehabilitation, clients are given job training so learning culinary skills would be a good fit for their current program.

Currently the house has 16 clients. Since Cardin started last year they have had 30 women through their six-month-program with only eight not completing it. All the women who live there are placed through the judicial system. Cardin said they are currently at 75 percent capacity. Founded in 1997, women stay six months to one year. Those who can pay $50 a week for rent.