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Community garden helps youngsters grow

Oxford High School juniors and siblings Kara (left) and Keegan Brook work away in the Childrenís Community Garden at Scripter Park. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
July 07, 2010 - There's something wonderful growing in Oxford Village's Scripter Park.

It's a combination of fresh produce, burgeoning parent-child relations and young people learning to appreciate the fruits of their labor.

This summer Oxford-Addison Youth Assistance (OAYA) is continuing to help cultivate the next generation with its Children's Community Garden on S. Glaspie St.

Approximately 30 kids and anywhere from eight to 10 parents meet three times a week to weed, dig, aerate, water and harvest in the garden they planted together.

Every day tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, corn, raspberries, herbs and other fresh delights bust through the soil and head toward the sky.

According to OAYA Caseworker Hank Szlenkier, the garden has a couple of new features this year.

The first is a brand new 10-foot-by-10-foot shed to accommodate the gardeners' storage needs.

"The other shed was literally disintegrating," Szlenkier said. "And we outgrew the space years ago."

Approximately $1,100 was spent on the new shed, but thanks to Oxford Village Councilman Tom Benner, who sits on the OAYA Board of Directors, $625 in cash donations were secured to help offset the cost.

The second new addition is a social worker who spends 10 hours a week working with the parents and kids as they till the soil together.

Not only does this benefit the families, it also helps Szlenkier focus his time and energies on other areas.

"I can't be there all the time," he said. "I have other responsibilities working with families individually."

Overall, the garden helps instill a sense of accomplishment in the kids who are allowed to keep some of the produce they helped raise.

The rest goes to help feed local senior citizens and families in need.

"I know a lot of the produce goes out to the Addison Senior Center," Szlenkier noted.

Working in the garden makes the kids eligible for various day trips throughout the summer. Recently, OAYA paid for 22 kids and 10 adults to visit the Detroit Zoo.

"That's a good number of kids for an organization like ours to assist," Szlenkier noted.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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