Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gardening in the snow

A group of students from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota decided to spend their spring break in St. Louis and volunteer with Gateway Greening. Gateway Greening sent them to us for March 14 and 15. Our gardens have tons of work to be done, so we certainly appreciated the help. However, no one was planning on a late winter snow storm for our first garden work day. We watched the forecast go from bad to worse, and eventually watched about two inches of wet snow fall on our weedy gardens. But the Macalester Crew showed up for work anyway, so we all went out and gardened in the snow in the middle of North St. Louis.
Our first youth garden employee was also present, working towards his laptop. Everyone ended up having a great time, and afterward we took them on a tour of the neighborhood, and tried to communicate the idea of pastoring the community. The Macalester group asked a lot of really good questions.

The next day, we went to the Clay School garden, which is completely full of crab grass. Tuesday was a little windier, and the garden was very muddy. But we all worked hard again, and made great headway. Our youth employee's little brother came, and kept the college kids entertained. This garden had a lot of small trees growing in it, and we all celebrated whenever one was dug up. We wrapped up our time having some good conversations back at the Opportunity Center.

Thanks so much to the group from Macalester College, for spending their spring break serving a community miles away, and coming and working hard with us in the snow and mud! And thanks to Gateway Greening for helping us accomplish our goals! And thanks to God for supplying us laborers!

We still have a lot work ahead of us for the gardens, including weeding, tilling, filling beds with compost, mulching, repairing, and of course, PLANTING!!! If you or your group are interested in helping, let Jason know:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Urban Gardening

We've started gardening!!!


Because we look at the community as a whole, and try to minister on all levels. We call this pastoring the community. We try to come along side people and minister to every need.

So, this year we are taking on three gardens that have not been producing, and don't have the manpower to manage. One at Clay Elementary School, one at Most Holy Trinity Church and Academy, and one that was managed by the Friedens Neighborhood Foundation, which is directly across the street from the Opportunity Center. Two of the gardens are in very bad shape, and will certainly be an adventure to restore. Gateway Greening has helped us make these connections, and provided the free Growing Gardeners class which two of our missionaries attended. They also provide us with free seedlings, seeds, compost, and mulch.

We hope to sell the produce from the gardens. The money used from the sale of the produce will help us employ youth in the area under an agricultural work permit. The money will also help us fund the gardening project that is truly on our hearts, and that is to come along side individuals and families, help them to get a garden lease on a city-owned lot, and teach them about gardening from planning to table, and perhaps to market. This beautifies the neighborhood, helps them get fresh, healthy food, and could help them get additional income. Bethlehem Lutheran is starting a charter school and wants to buy our produce. A few other entities have also expressed interest.

We are very excited about this venture, as God has already used it to unite groups in the community. It is resurrecting what was dead and neglected, and provides an educational space for schools and for us.

If you are interested in coming out into the garden with us, you can contact Jason at

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Board Up Hyde Park

Sun Ministries is working with Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. to board up city-owned vacant properties in Hyde Park. The city cannot afford to board them all up, as there are several hundreds just in this neighborhood. We try to work with other groups, get them to adopt a house, raise funds for materials, and decorate the boards with positive words and images, and we go and install them. Doing this protects the properties from break ins and the elements, preserves them until they can be rehabbed, and shows the community that somebody cares. It takes a property that looked dead and abandoned, and gives it some life and presence, and shows that things are changing.

The 7th grade class of St. John Neumann Catholic School in Maryville, IL adopted 1923 Bremen. This house borders the actual park, and is part of the historic Bremen Theater, that has been abandoned for some time. We are working with groups to revitalize it.

They did a great job, and the pictures speak for themselves. If you know of a group interested in a board up, you can download this flyer, or email Jason at

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Recycled Pallets

At the Opportunity Center, in addition to a sewing center, we have a wood shop. We've been making mahogany and pine deck chairs for about a year. We've also made a couple custom wood items, and experimented with some others. The wood shop offers a great place for missionaries, volunteers, and those to whom we minister to work with their hands, use creativity, and develop basic measuring, assembling, and safety skills. And we all really enjoy it.

We have now found a source for free wood. Thiel Tool and Engineering Company has started donating us their hardwood pallets. And they are conveniently located just under a mile from us. The pallets are mostly oak, with some assorted hardwoods, and some yellow pine. Once we sand the wood, it is very pretty and sturdy.

We have started making garden benches, picnic tables, and compost bins. Pallets are a huge waste problem for businesses (much like coffee bags); they have to pay for them to be removed, and they pile up in landfills. We are turning them into furniture, allowing a setting to teach various job skills.

If you are interested in sprucing up your yard or garden with handsome, recycled products, you can email Jason at