Wisconsin Church Makes Gardening Inclusive

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Four years ago, when Covenant Christian Reformed Church started its community garden program, coordinator Gail Miller hoped the nine plots would draw in residents from the church’s Appleton (Wisc.) neighborhood.

Clarence Thuecks farms his plot in Covenant CRC’s community garden after church member Seth Legare designed a system that made the space accessible for residents with physical impairments.

But when 17-year-old church member Seth Legare learned that the garden wasn’t accessible to gardeners with physical impairments, he decided to do something about it.

As part of his quest to become an Eagle Scout, Legare drew up plans for a handicap-accessible garden—a project that could serve not only his church but his community as well.

“There was a real need,” Legare said.

Legare designed and constructed two raised planting boxes, as well as a matting system that provides access to the garden for people who use wheelchairs.

After tweaking his initial plans a handful of times, Legare and his family, along with a team of about 20 volunteers, built the raised boxes and laid down rubberized barn matting, making the garden usable for anyone who hoped to farm their own plot.

The $700 building costs came from donations as well as Covenant CRC’s missions fund.

“It was refreshing being used,” Legare said. “I felt proud to be able finish something that was going to be used and to be able to bring joy to people who really hadn’t had access [to the garden] before.”

Church neighbors Clarence and Ann Thuecks, who began gardening at the church last summer, used Legare’s project immediately. Clarence, who uses a wheelchair, used to accompany his wife to the space last summer, but could only watch from afar because there was no way to access their plot.

As Legare’s building project neared completion in late May, Clarence asked on a daily basis if it was ready, anxious to be able to share his love of gardening with those around him.

“It just worked out so beautifully,” Miller said. “It’s so nice to see [the Thuecks] be able to garden and feel like part of the community.”

About the Author

Jeff Arnold is the Banner’s regional news correspondent for classes Kalamazoo and Lake Erie.

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