Autumn 2009: Sustainable Efforts
Oxford students help plant and tend community gardens
Committed to Service
Oxford College students are energetic when it comes to community service. Last year, with a campus of around 750 students, they completed more than thirteen thousand hours of service. Nationally, about one third of college students are engaged in community service each year, but at Oxford, that number is more than 78 percent.
By Mary J. Loftus
Wearing old clothes and gardening gloves, Oxford students turned out in force to dig in the dirt this spring to create Gardens of Hope. Vines bursting with ripe fruits and vegetables come summer were their reward.
The students worked with other local groups and master gardeners to create two community gardens—one in raised beds at Turner Lake Recreation Area, and the other in a more traditional lot on Turner Lake Circle, next to the Community Food Pantry in Covington.
Chelsey Carter 10Ox planted green beans, lima beans, and watermelon for her first up-close gardening experience.
“My friends were actually laughing at me because I am not one to dig my hands in dirt,” she says. “The Garden of Hope has been my favorite community service project to date. I looked forward to returning to school this year to see the garden fully harvested. It was exciting to know that my efforts grew into this amazing garden that feeds people in Newton County.”
Oxford volunteers, including members of Volunteer Oxford and Bonner Leaders, established the gardens on January 19 as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, with nearly two hundred other volunteers.
On April 25, they planted seeds and starter plants along with volunteers from groups such as Hands On Newton, Georgia Perimeter College, and the Department of Juvenile Justice. Bedding plants for the gardens were donated by local high school agricultural classes; high school students helped out with the planting as well.
Fresh produce from the gardens, including watermelons, okra, tomatoes, and peppers, has been given to a local homeless shelter and food banks.
“More than 250 pounds of produce have been donated thus far,” says Crystal McLaughlin, Oxford College director of student development. “The project has been so successful that it has been embraced by county leaders, and we are likely to have an even bigger garden next year.”
“Our students have bright minds and big hearts,” adds McLaughlin. “Now, some of them are also knowledgeable gardeners.”