COVINGTON - Students and members from local organizations who kicked off a garden project in January took it to the next level over the weekend.
About 50 individuals from Oxford College, Project Adventure and other local service organizations spent part of the afternoon Saturday planting seeds and starter plants in two Newton County locations as part of the Garden of Hope project.
"The beauty of this project is that so many different groups come together to make this happen," said Crystal McLaughlin, director of student development at Oxford College.
Groups that worked on the project and will continue it include Hands on Newton, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Oxford College, Georgia Perimeter College, Newton County Agricultural Extension Service, Newton County Master Gardeners and students from Newton County high schools, which had their agricultural classes grow and donate bedding plants that were installed.
"It was a lot of fun; I really enjoyed it," said Christina Bishop, a sophomore at Oxford College and a Newton High School graduate. "I wish I had been more involved in the community when I was at Newton (High School). It was so nice to see that."
The project started in January for Martin Luther King Day Jr., when nearly 200 volunteers built two community gardens at Turner Lake Recreation Center and Turner Lake Circle.
Throughout the semester, groups have been preparing the soil for the project on Saturday, when more volunteers helped plant the fruits and vegetables that will grow in the garden. The food will be given to the food pantry, needy senior citizens and other local individuals and families living in poverty.
"There were lots of people there who have never done any gardening," McLaughlin said. "So it was exciting for them to learn how to plant plants ... and to learn about gardening ... while also planting fresh vegetables that will go to the neediest people in the county."
Saturday's project was completed for Global Youth Service Day, which was funded through a $1,000 grant from Youth Service America and a $2,500 grant from Snapping Shoals.
McLaughlin said groups will continue working on the project for the rest of the semester and into the summer by keeping it watered and weeded and eventually harvesting the produce.
Bishop applied for an internship to work with the garden over the summer and hopes others come out to volunteer throughout the year.
"It would be awesome to get more community members involved," she said. "Just a few hours during the week wouldn't hurt that much."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.