Situated atop a small hill overlooking Springs Rescue Mission is a well-kept secret of the historic Mill Street neighborhood — a 15,000-square-foot community garden that was started in 2012 by a group of plant-loving neighbors.
Now, the folks from SRM’s culinary programs and those garden-tending neighbors have come together in a mutually beneficial partnership. In exchange for help caring for the garden, the Mill Street neighbors have generously offered the Mission dedicated space to grow a variety of herbs for cooking and job training, as well as fresh flowers to adorn the tables of the Samaritan’s Kitchen dining hall.
“We get so many potatoes and carrots and other staple foods, but this is an opportunity to go beyond that and have things that may otherwise go overlooked,” said Tyler Peoples, SRM’s director of work programs. “To have fresh-cut flowers for the guests and these herbs to be creative with is such a blessing.”
The herbs, flowers and other items provided by the Mill Street Community Garden will allow for more comprehensive training for individuals who serve in Samaritan’s Kitchen, at Mission Catering and who are enrolled in Mission Culinary Academy, a training program designed to teach skills to recent graduates of the New Life Program (men’s residential addiction recovery).
But, perhaps most importantly, the partnership serves as a way for the Mission to become more involved in the community to which it belongs. Springs Rescue Mission has existed in the Mill Street neighborhood since its founding nearly 25 years ago and has enjoyed a variety of opportunities to engage with gracious neighbors who have supported — and continue to support —its work serving the most vulnerable men and women of Colorado Springs.
“This project gives us another reason to get out there and help out our community — and for them to help us too,” Peoples said. “It’s really a beautiful project.”
In the 2019 Mill Street Neighborhood Plan, the City of Colorado Springs outlined several recommendations for community development. Among them were partnering with area nonprofits and building relationships with local organizations (including SRM). The Mission became involved with the garden project in early May after a call from Steve Wood, who runs the community nonprofit Concrete Couch. Wood was familiar with SRM’s culinary programs and saw it as an opportunity to combine forces in a new and positive way.
“This is a great garden in a great location, but they were having trouble keeping up with it,” Wood said. “I knew about the culinary program and some of the guys at the Mission, so I reached out.”
Sandy White lives in the neighborhood and serves as the de facto leader of the community garden project. She expressed hopes that the partnership might continue to grow.
“We want to help where we can,” she said. “And hopefully we can kind of do more — grow different things — as the Mission’s needs change.”
Sandy said most of the seeds, bulbs, wood chips and other items in the garden are donated by local garden centers and generous neighbors. Residents can rent beds at the garden for $25 per year, which covers the cost of watering.
While many community gardens become disused and overlooked with time, Springs Rescue Mission is proud to participate in the beautiful, fertile and thriving Mill Street Community Garden.
“It’s a great partnership, and we’re really thankful for it,” said Tyrone Chisholm, a recent New Life Program graduate who leads SRM’s involvement in the project. “I think we’ll all learn a lot and that this will help us connect more with the community and the Mill Street neighbors.”
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