Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Press Release: Federal Way Senior Center to unveil its Community Garden

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April 3, 2009

Federal Way Senior Center to unveil its Community Garden

On Friday, May 1st, the Federal Way Senior Center will host a Meet the Garden party to celebrate the grand opening of its Community Garden, located on the Center’s five-acre site at 4016 South 352nd Street.

The event will celebrate - and honor - the spirit of volunteerism and community support that transformed a large, visible, and unremarkable plot of Center property into a beautiful 10,000 square-foot garden.

The Center’s Community Garden is ambitious and carefully conceived, intended to serve the entire community with fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables. There are areas specifically designed for people with walkers and in wheelchairs, as well as six plots for groups of children.

The Federal Way Senior Center has operated for more than three decades as a non-profit member association of senior volunteers who manage most of the functions and services of the Center. Beginning last fall, Center volunteers looked for an outdoor activity that would engage the 4th graders from nearby Lakeland Elementary School who participate in the Center’s after-school senior mentoring program, Roots and Wings. They imagined a small garden that would provide opportunities for seniors and children to work together to grow flowers and produce. They envisioned kids harvesting the produce and taking it home to their families, some of whom are low income. After purchasing a greenhouse and taking a backhoe to some of the lawn in front of the Center, the vision was adrift. Enter Boeing retiree and Master Gardener, Mike Stanley.

“Last September, this guy, Mike Stanley, stops into my office,” Nathan Brown, Executive Director of the Center, recalled. “Mike tells me he lives nearby and that he couldn’t help but notice that we’ve got a great start to a garden. He asks if we’d like some help. He’s a Master Gardener.”

“’Oh, and by the way,’ Mike says, ‘I have this project proposal and garden plan.’ He pulled out this detailed schematic of the design of the garden. It was amazing!” Brown said. With Stanley’s leadership, the Community Garden was officially underway.

Along with the detailed plan came Stanley’s project management expertise and his experience connecting with the community. His professional (32 years as engineering/project manager at Boeing) and life experiences and his willingness to share them with the Federal Way Senior Center have been critical to translating the original Center vision of a kid’s garden into the Federal Way Senior Center Community Garden. That name is significant, because it describes precisely the intention that brought the garden into being. The concept and practice of “community” is as essential to this garden as the soil in which the plants are taking root.

The process of establishing the Community Garden pulled together countless volunteers and garnered the generous support of business sponsors. From Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, who helped secure county financial support, to local area businesses that donated in-kind materials as well as money, to AmeriCorps volunteers - 50 strong - who invested two full days helping to establish the garden, to senior volunteers who labored weekends pushing wheelbarrows and spreading sawdust, the Community Garden not only serves the community, but is the product of some of its most generous members.

The Meet the Garden Party is intended to honor these volunteers and sponsors. It will include a tour of the Community Garden and the unveiling of the garden’s logo, including a presentation to the winner of the logo design contest. Refreshments will be served.

The Community Garden will serve the people of South King County in a variety of ways:

  • Produce will be delivered to seniors in need at senior housing locations and their homes through the meals-on-wheels program
  • Yields from its harvest will help feed the community by helping stock the shelves of the Federal Way Senior Center Community Pantry with fresh produce. Every month, this on-site food bank serves 900 seniors and their family members and that number is rising.
  • The Community Garden has been and will continue to be a source of volunteer opportunities for seniors and the community as a whole, consistent with the Center’s creed to have volunteerism at the heart of its operations and activities.
  • Throughout the seasons, the garden will serve as a gathering place for would-be gardeners wanting to learn more about the fine art of organic gardening. Stanley and others will hold workshops at the site; the first is scheduled for May 9th.
  • As originally envisioned, the garden will serve as the springtime after-school activity site for the Center’s Roots and Wings program that pairs senior mentors with Lakeland Elementary School children.
  • Last but not least, the Federal Way Senior Center Community Garden will serve as a peaceful haven for seniors, featuring a center courtyard with benches, a fountain, and flowers where Center members and visitors can relax in the outdoors.
It is also worth noting that the Community Garden is part of a grander scheme as the first initiative within a larger vision for the Federal Way Senior Center. According to Brown, the Center is exploring ways to better utilize the five-acre site by establishing a permanent green space and building a comprehensive senior facility. The Community Garden will be its touchstone.

For more information, contact:
Teri Hickel (Event)

Mike Stanley (Community Garden)



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