Gabriel’s Garden partnering with Matt 25

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Volunteer Lori Brunsen picks peas Thursday at Gabriel’s Garden near Cannon Air Force Base. Brunsen and project organizer Lori Yanez said they need more volunteers to keep the community garden going.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Gabriel’s Garden is growing partners in the community on its way toward offering the needy a source for fresh food and produce.

Recently the Matt 25 Hope Center joined with Gabriel’s Garden and started its own plant beds at its facility on Thornton Street as an auxiliary site for the garden project.

“I’ve had a thought that we ought to have a community garden here,” Executive Director Steve Reshetar said, explaining Gabriel’s Garden coordinator Lori Yanez told him she had plants that needed more water than she is able to provide at her location on U.S. 60/84 near Cannon Air Force Base.

Reshetar said they created and planted four rows in a courtyard at the center.

“We have volunteers watering it every day. We’re making sure it gets watered all these hot days,” he said.

The produce will be given to people who come to the center for food and will supplement canned and dry goods they are given, he said.

The center now hopes to create a gardening program for senior citizens with easily accessible, raised flower beds.

“The senior center, they were really interested in this whole project. We’ve been trying to find a way to be more involved with the seniors … I think this garden is just another wonderful way to do that,” he said.

Reshetar said the center also felt so strongly about wanting to help Gabriel’s Garden, the board voted to partner with Yanez and blanket her endeavor under its non-profit status.

Yanez started her garden this spring with the help of volunteers.

The property the garden lies on is land she owned with her now-deceased husband, who had envisioned a garden that he could share the produce from.

Yanez said when her husband Gabriel died unexpectedly from an asthma attack in Dec. 2008, her life took a turn for the worse and she and her son quickly found themselves without resources and living in a 12-by12-foot barn.

A family her son knew from church discovered their situation and took them in, she said, helping them to rebuild their lives and dignity.

“You lose your dignity so fast that sometimes you think you’re never going to get it back,” she said.

“We want to find ways for people to maintain their dignity and get help at the same time.”

Under the concept, people can come and volunteer at the garden in exchange for the produce they need.

“You want more, you work more. You want less, you work less … I also believe you don’t get something for nothing,” she said, explaining volunteering can fit a variety of needs from providing delivery transportation of produce, to clerical work, web design, photography, gardening or skilled labor.

“We need the help.”

Grown from her husband’s dream of growing food for those in need, Yanez networked and researched and garnered support and volunteers for the garden through the winter and saw it manifest early this spring.

A core group of about 10 volunteers work closely with her and countless groups, from Cannon airmen to churches, schools and individuals have donated time and materials to grow her dream.

Thursday, Yanez looked out over the juvenile plants and said, “It’s going way too slow … I could have planted three times as much.”

Between the Lighthouse Mission and Food Bank alone, nearly 6,000 people seek help to eat, she said.

“That’s an awful lot of people in Clovis that don’t have access to nutritious food,” she said.

Every morning she rises before 6 a.m. and makes her way outside to tend the plants, with dreams of a year-round operation with a greenhouse and a larger chicken coop.

There are fruit trees that will hopefully bear fruit in a year or more plus vegetables and herbs.

But she said she needs more help, more money and more supplies to realize her goal.

“If we could get other people to do stuff, it would be great,” volunteer Lori Brunsen said, explaining there is so much to be done on a daily basis, the core group of volunteers isn’t enough.

For information on Gabriel’s Garden, call 749-1141 or e-mail: gabrielsgrdn@yahoo.com