Participants in The Arc of Atlantic County’s Adult Training program gathered on a hot and sunny day to do some gardening in Atlantic City. Despite the heat, spirits were high as fresh herbs and vegetables were harvested from the community garden located next to the Hamilton Memorial United Methodist Church on Arctic Avenue. There was an abundance of potatoes, carrots and kale. The garden is already producing amazing results, not only because of the healthy food being grown, but also the opportunity for career training, volunteerism and personal growth that it brings to The Arc’s participating consumers.
The garden offers participants the chance to gain the skills needed to plant and grow healthy food, and even ways to prepare it. Volunteers keep the beds clear of weeds and also learn when vegetables are ripe for picking. That day, they gathered baskets of vegetables and took a “smell tour” of the garden to identify the many herbs being grown.
The garden is the result of support from the church, AtlantiCare’s Growing Green initiative, and Cookie Till’s A Work in Progress foundation. The community garden is thriving thanks to the participating partners who have come together to create and support this special place. Surrounded by flowers and herbs, the garden has become an urban oasis that shows how local organizations can have a big impact on the community.
According to Laura Engelmann, manager Community Health and Wellness, AtlantiCare, working with the volunteers is very rewarding. “Our organization is dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles,” Engelmann said. “The volunteers learn about growing their own food and how delicious fresh picked vegetables can be.”
The Arc of Atlantic County is dedicated to providing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) by keeping them connected to their community. Working in the garden has allowed participants to discover the joys of gardening and healthy eating while developing skills that can help them find employment.
The Arc volunteer Michael Chanese shows off the rainbow carrots he picked in the community garden.