When Laura Knotts, 17, a homeschooled student from Smithsburg, Maryland, heard about New Hope Ministries, she wanted to do something to help.
That help came in the form of a garden at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg from which more than 1,000 pounds of produce were harvested for the ministry to distribute to those in need through its centers in Mechanicsburg, Dillsburg, Dover, Hanover, New Oxford and Lemoyne.
Q. How did you develop the garden idea?
A. I was searching for a project for my Stars and Stripes Award in American Heritage Girls, a Christ-centered scouting program for girls ages 5-18. The award is the highest honor in the program and equivalent to Eagle Scout. Its main requirement is a community service project of at least 100 hours of planning and implementation.
When I heard about New Hope Ministries, I loved their mission and wanted to become involved. I asked if there was anything I could do for their organization, and found that a long-time need was a constant source of fresh produce for their food pantry. Jeanne Troy, the New Hope Ministries representative, suggested I plant a vegetable garden on the property of our troop’s charter church. I shared this idea with my family, AHG troop and church staff, and decided to pursue it after much prayer. We knew that, with God’s help, it had the potential to benefit New Hope Ministries in a huge way.
Q. Who were the major partners in getting the garden started, and how did they help?
A. Each of my family members, especially my mom, was heavily involved with the project and dedicated many hours to its success. I could not have done it without them. They were a constant source of encouragement and advice, and helped me stay focused and on track.
The New Hope Ministries representative, Jeanne Troy, worked with me closely to let me know exactly what the organization needed and how we could best tailor the garden to work for them. She also spread the word to the surrounding area.
The staff of West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, where the garden was located, were instrumental in setting the idea into motion. They provided the land and temporary storage space for tools/wheelbarrows, obtained the fencing permit and offered gardening advice.
The Ames Charitable Foundation was an essential partner in getting this project off the ground. The vice-president of human resources for the Ames Cos. Inc., Chris Ebling, heard about the project through his longtime friend, Jeanne. He was thrilled about the idea and how well it aligned with the company’s product types and charitable endeavors. He offered that the foundation would donate all tools, wheelbarrows, hoses and other materials; provide assistance with planting and maintenance; pay for the installation of a chain link fence; and pay for a shed to house the tools.
My American Heritage Girls troop was constantly involved, as well. Our troop coordinator, leaders, charter representative, girls and my mentor encouraged and prayed for me, volunteering to assist with installation and maintenance.
Another key partner was our future garden ministry leader, Libby Kiehl. To move this garden past the initial idea phase, we needed to ensure that there was someone willing to take on its responsibilities in future years. She stepped up to meet this need and assisted with installation and maintenance this season.
Q. Once the growing season was underway, how did you take care of the garden and get the produce to New Hope Ministries?
A. After planting, the garden needed to be watered, weeded and harvested frequently. My family and I spent many hours there, but the majority of this work was accomplished by volunteers from AHG and Trail Life USA, a Christ-centered scouting program for boys ages 5-18, families, church members and others.
Within a few weeks of planting, vegetables began growing. However, there was no urgent need for a regular delivery schedule at this point, as harvest was coming in inconsistently. Either Jeanne Troy or the volunteer who picked it would deliver produce to the Mechanicsburg center. When harvest began readying steadily, I worked with the New Hope Ministries’ food program coordinator to establish a pick-up schedule each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The total pounds of produce donated from our garden to the Mechanicsburg New Hope Ministries food pantry is 1,122 pounds between July and October 2017.
Q. How will the garden be tended in the future?
A. In the future, our ministry leader will be the coordinator of the garden. She will be responsible for donations, workdays and volunteers. I will definitely be involved in the garden next year, but not to the extent I was this season.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. My plans for the future are, above all, to follow God’s will for my life and do my best to bring glory to him. I’m not yet sure what path he will lead me to, but I know without a doubt that he will reveal this to me in his perfect timing. My current goal is to be a nutritionist, and I’d like to gain an associate’s degree at a community college before transferring to a Christian college such as Messiah College or Liberty University.