02/27/08 — Library's community garden to receive grant

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Library's community garden to receive grant

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 27, 2008 1:47 PM

A program that created the community garden behind the library on Ash Street is expected to receive a $3,000 grant.

The official letter has not arrived yet, but officials at the Wayne County Public Library say they have received word the American Library Association's Library "Service to Children" division has awarded the grant to the library's Summer Reading Program, which implemented the garden two summers ago. The $3,000 grant, donated by Book Wholesalers, Inc., provides financial assistance for developing outstanding summer reading programs for children.

And Library Director Jane Rustin said this local program is outstanding. The aim has been to build community, and the garden project has proven successful at doing that, she said.

"It was a local grassroots effort, and now, we have an opportunity to expand," she said.

The garden began with contributions from the Friends of the Library and help from the Parks and Recreation Department. And Mrs. Rustin says that makes the project special to her.

"But this grant represents national recognition," she said. "The money is great, but they're acknowledging how special the program is. That is what was so sweet to me. But the money is welcome, too."

She admitted to having misgivings when Children's Librarian Shorlette Ammons-Stephens first came to her with the idea of creating a community garden.

"I said, 'What does that have to do with the library?'"

But Mrs. Ammons-Stephens got the green light and started the project, documenting every success as it proceeded.

"Shorlette demonstrated how the garden is helping build community," Mrs. Rustin said about the grant application.

And the application from Wayne County rose to the top among fierce competition, Assistant Library Director Donna Phillips said.

"We are so proud of Shorlette," she said. "She had proof the project has been successful."

One example of how the project fostered a sense of community happened this summer. People would come into the library saying things like "I see you have cabbage out there. Do you think it would be OK if I take some home?"

Then shortly thereafter, the same person would return to the library with the food they cooked -- and a copy of the recipe.

Another thing that happened to give evidence to the sense of community brought about by the garden was a vandalism that devastated staff members and volunteers who had been closely watching the garden's progress.

During the night one night, somebody toppled all the sunflowers.

Mrs. Ammons-Stephens recalled how the children reacted when they found out what had happened. She said they looked at the situation and kept on making plans.

"They said, 'Let's get the seeds out of the flowers on the ground.' And then, people from the community walked in with packets of sunflower seeds," she said. "The human spirit really prevailed in that moment. You've got to love Wayne County. They step up. It was inspiring to me."

The garden seems to empower people, she said.

"The children feel like it's their own space," she said. "We have a beautiful array of people who knew about us, and now, we're getting to know each other."