By Amie Sites
---- — Leah Jensen, an area coach from Taco Bell, poured soil into a raised garden bed Wednesday morning at Emmaus Mission Center. Jensen, who was born in Logansport and now lives in Fort Wayne, brought a team of volunteers to help plant community gardens at the Emmaus Mission Center, 805 Spencer St.
The volunteer activity is part of a new global volunteer effort by Taco Bell's parent company Yum! Brands Inc., which encourages the employees to volunteer in their communities. Jensen and her volunteer team — Ben Hanica, Adam Lyons, Tanya Cunningham and Stacey Ramsey — helped as a part of the Hunger to Hope volunteer challenge, which encourages employees o make a lasting local impact on the hunger issue.
In 2013, participating teams will be evaluated by a panel of judges and the teams who made the biggest impact will receive grants for their partner agency. That means they could earn up to $20,000 for Logansport Emmaus.
Jensen, a Logansport High School graduate, is excited to be back helping in her community. She said she visits often and her brother, sister and parents still live in the area.
"I'm so excited to give back to the community," Jensen said. "It's my hometown."
Volunteers learned how to create raised garden beds on asphalt from Thomas Henderson, executive director of The Acts Project. They were instructed to lay down landscape paper under the gardens and then start adding a soil mixture including topsoil, peat moss and manure.
Shiloh Christian Church provided the wood for more raised beds and Gleaners Insurance Arbor has provided the soil, according to Jason Mitchell, executive director of Emmaus Mission Center.
“Community gardens are added in cities all over the country,” Henderson said. “Although the garden is important, it’s more about building a community than building a garden.”
The raised garden beds were built against a fence behind the mission center and vining crops will be planted, such as cucumbers, beans and small melons.
"The whole idea of community gardens is becoming very popular," Jensen said. "They are needed all over and the idea of growing something on asphalt is so cool."
Mitchell said he is excited to be expanding the garden and growing food to sustain the 20 to 25 residents.
"A lot of time people in the city have space like this and will want to know if it will work," Mitchell said. "And it will."
Mitchell enjoys being able to know residents are growing the vegetables organically. He said he likes knowing where they came from and is looking forward to eating them.
Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.