As you pull into the parking lot of the Dignity Center, you can’t help but notice a lot of green among the gravel. That’s our urban garden. What once was a little plot at the back of the lot, sprouts amid weeds in an old retention basin, now is a fully-grown garden at the entrance of the plaza. So, you may be wondering why we started planting in the first place. Was it just to pretty-up the property? Give folks something to do? Make salads for our staff? Urban gardening/farming has become very popular in recent years, and everyone has their own reason for procuring the seed & soil. Here’s a look into our urban garden story…
A Leafy Green Vision
A few years ago, Ken & Wendy Kebrdle, founders of Wear Gloves, Inc., had a vision for ministering to the distressed and homeless in our community (read more about their story HERE). The overarching focus: how do we love God and love others? After a lot of careful planning and hard work, the Dignity Center was born, a place purposed in creating work for the needy with a vision to break the cycle of dependency. And what better way to fulfill the Wear Gloves ministry vision than to put on gloves and get to work on the hideous, eye-sore that sat awkwardly at the far end of the building: the retention basin.
In September of 2015, a newly-employed group of “homies” (Ken’s nickname for the distressed) chopped down trees and pulled weeds for weeks on end. It was a treacherous project as the crew cleaned up vagrant camps, needles, and loads of other trash. The clearing of the basin not only provided work for those in need, but it also opened the door for greater service opportunities. Ken & Wendy saw that the basin could potentially be turned into a garden that could be maintained by staff and meet other needs of the homeless community. So, they sought through prayer for a way to see that vision into fruition.
Along Came Sandy
Suddenly, an angel appeared from heaven… not really, but close. Not too long after the basin was cleared and the Kebrdles began praying for help to grow a garden, Sandy Young Murphy walked through the door of the Dignity Center, eager to serve. And it just so happened that Sandy was an avid and experienced gardener. Now with prayers answered and Sandy joining forces with the Wear Gloves ministry team, the dream of an urban garden was coming to life.
“We were and still are so grateful that God sent Sandy our way. We have seen Sandy take the ugly dirty retention pond full of trash and turn it into something productive and beautiful. Seeing this provides a daily reminder that God takes us broken and ‘full-of-trash’ people and makes us beautiful!” – Wendy
A Beautiful Outgrowth
In time, the garden was blooming. It provided convenient, fresh edibles and Sandy had planted common medicinal herbs for our clients to pick for treating digestive issues, to use as deodorant, and even as bug repellent. The staff learned how to plant and maintain the garden, a new skill to many, and were able to reap the fruits of their labor. Just another way the ministry vision of breaking the cycle of dependency was being realized in small, humble ways.
All around, the Wear Gloves ministry at the Dignity Center was flourishing greatly and they were seeing that it was getting a bit crammed in their current unit space. They were building Adirondack chairs, crafting artwork for the home, sewing scarves, and growing a garden. With the work, the sales, and the donations from the community, came greater vision for growth and sustainability. Ken & Wendy began to research into roasting and selling coffee beans. Soon after, the ministry took flight at a new level. It was time to move to a larger space.
At the very other end of the plaza was that larger space the ministry would need. With the move, the team saw that it would be a little more difficult to keep an eye on the garden, which sat at the opposite end of the property. Sandy and the Kebrdles decided that it would be best to recreate the urban garden at the entrance of the parking lot, closest to the new location of the Dignity Center. This would take some extra cash and resources that they did not have, but they were not afraid to pray and to ask the community for help.
Sandy decided to make a post on Facebook about need to move the Wear Gloves urban garden and the lack of resources to meet this need. Shortly thereafter, an answer to prayer came. One of the small groups at Sandy’s church (Central Christian Church) saw that they would be able to work together to provide the much needed resources. In came nutrient-rich soil, wood, and seedlings. It was an even better start than Sandy had hoped for and a huge improvement from the nutrient-lacking retention basin she and the staff had been working out of. They would be able to grow a much larger garden and eventually expand, providing more work and more resources for the homeless and distressed to use for their health and personal care.
Today, the garden is blooming like crazy… crazy good. It is being maintained by Sandy and the staff at Wear Gloves. Sandy already has big plans to expand north of the property, growing more goodies along with a sunflower garden.
Among the plants you’ll see stones with words written on them: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness… the fruits of the spirit. Although the urban garden is not growing fruits (yet), it is inspiring the workers, volunteers, and the passerby to consider the work of the Lord in our lives. In humble reliance upon him, we receive gifts. We grow. And we are able show the world what life looks like when we make space for Christ to work in and through us: a life of faith produces the best fruit around. And a few cukes, too.
A little more about the WG Urban Garden:
- All of our produce is 100% Organic
- We only grow veggies that don’t have to be cooked to be eaten: cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, green onion, etc.
- We also grow medicinal herbs: parsley (for digestion), rosemary (natural deodorant), citronella (bug repellent)
Cin - May 8, 2019
I just LOVE it! I’m so proud of everyone there who puts on their “gloves”. That is truly love in action.
Charity Steinkamp - June 12, 2019
I will help and volunteer any way I can as often as I can and as much as needed.
Bob H. - October 5, 2019
I’ve known Sandy for almost 10 years now. She is always dedicated and enthusiastic in all of her endeavors, particularly when they benefit others. I heard about her relationship with Wear Gloves last Sunday at C3 Ocala. She is the epitome of Wear Gloves mission to serve, teach and advocate. Go Sandy… GO WEAR GLOVES!!!
Samantha - October 14, 2019
The work that’s being done is wonderful.