Underserved and Homeless To Enjoy Fresh Vegetables
Friday, May 13 was a lucky day for Neyer Properties and community partners, as they were finally able to plant the Keystone Community Garden at Keystone Parke in Evanston.
The project had been rained out and rescheduled four times since Earth Day on April 22.
Produce grown at the community garden will go to local soup kitchens and a pantry. Forty-seven volunteers worked from 8 a.m. to noon to till and plant a 60- by 90-foot garden on vacant land located off Realistic Avenue in Evanston, between Neyer Properties’ Keystone Parke headquarters and the American Red Cross regional headquarters.
The garden is visible from I-71 south of the Dana Avenue exit ramp.
“We believe in developing sustainable buildings, and we also believe it’s the right thing to help sustain lives by doing something positive for the less fortunate,” said Dan Neyer, president of Neyer Properties. “Having access to good food is a basic need, and this is a small way we can help others in need.”
Volunteers planted tomatoes, peppers, corn, potatoes, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, and onions.
The garden will be maintained throughout the summer by volunteers and produce donated to the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) and Walnut Hills Kitchens and Pantry. The OTR kitchen was founded in 1976 by the Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, a professor at St. Gregory’s Seminary in Cincinnati. It is the oldest soup kitchen in the Tristate.
“Neyer Properties represents the wonderful generosity of corporations in our city,” said Patricia Wakim, executive director of the OTR and Walnut Hills Kitchens and Pantry. “It is through this kindness and support that we are able to continue our mission to care for the poor and homeless in an environment of respect and hospitality. The individuals and families we serve, who numbered over 215,000 last year, will be thrilled to reap the bounty of the garden harvest in their daily meals at each of our kitchens and in their grocery bags at our pantry. We applaud Neyer Properties for its dedication in caring for those less fortunate.”
According to the Urban Institute, 51 percent of Americans will live in poverty sometime before the age of 65. It’s estimated that 20.7 percent of all children under 18 in the U.S. live in poverty, according to the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan.
The OTR and Walnut Hills Kitchens and Pantry serve about 4,000 meals per week. “We rarely receive fresh produce,” said Wakim. “Most of our meals are prepared from canned fruits and vegetables. It will be such a luxury for our guests to enjoy freshly- prepared produce. We also distribute groceries twice a week from our Walnut Hills Pantry. We are thrilled to be able to include as much fresh produce as possible in the grocery bags that we distribute to our guests.”
Lawn Systems, Inc. provided prep work and equipment to till the land; the American Red Cross provided volunteers and the irrigation supply for the garden; and Mills Fence Company provided a six-foot fence to protect the garden from animals.
“Everyone at Lawn Systems is honored to contribute to this Earth Day project,” said Russ Mason, president of Lawn Systems, Inc. “We feel strongly that we did not inherit this earth from our parents, but we in fact are borrowing it from our children. This project is certainly a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.”
The Red Cross is committed to being a good partner with its Evanston neighbors and to promoting a ‘green’ way of life in as many ways as we can, said Paula McIntosh, community presence office with the American Red Cross. “We are happy to support the community garden project with volunteer planters and with irrigation.”
Mills Fence Company president Ken Mills said his firm is excited to partner with Neyer Properties by supplying fencing for the Keystone Community Garden. “We believe that this garden will strengthen the community and promote healthy living for Cincinnatians,” he said.
Neyer Management, Funky’s Catering, CB Richard Ellis, Tri-State Services and Griffin Fletcher Herndon provided meals for the volunteers, purchased t-shirts and a banner for the event, and will provide volunteers for ongoing garden maintenance.
The Keystone Community Garden project is one of many ways Neyer Properties gives back to the community. The company and its employees have helped Working in Neighborhoods volunteers with annual home rehabilitation and landscaping projects annually since 2007, and since 2008 have cleaned up litter and recyclables every month on Dana Avenue from the I-71 south exit ramp to Evanston Avenue along Keystone Parke frontage as part of the Keep Cincinnati Beautiful’s Adopt-A-Spot program.
In 2009 and 2010, Neyer and other volunteers helped renovate Evanston Park, which is adjacent to Keystone Park. Along with other volunteers, Neyer added landscaping, new playground equipment, and renovated a basketball court.
For more information on the OTR and Walnut Hills Kitchens and Pantry, go to www.overtherhinekitchen.org.