Garden provides food for needy, solace for volunteers

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By Deborah Swearingen

On a warm, sunny day in early June, volunteers gather at the Chatfield Community Garden to weed, water, plant and prepare the soil for the upcoming season.


An array of colorful flowers in shades of orange, pink, purple and yellow greet visitors as they enter the dirt-lined paths.

The garden, which just entered its seventh year, is a Denver Urban Gardens affiliate, and it is housed at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in South Jeffco — but it’s open to all.

Every year, gardeners at the Chatfield Community Garden donate one to two tons of fresh produce to Open Arms Food Bank, which serves approximately 170 families a week.

For Open Arms, it’s wonderful to have a consistent outlet for fresh produce.

“Chatfield Gardens has truly been a blessing for the food bank,” said co-director Darla Olds. “They grow a lot of herbs for us, and that’s something that most people that are struggling with food issues don’t really get.”

Father Todd Sorensen of St. Gregory’s echoed this point. He, too, called the garden a blessing and said he enjoys meeting gardeners and delivering fresh, organic produce to those in need.

But the garden offers more than that for those who volunteer their time. There also are individual plots for rent where community members can grow vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Those who gardened in a morning work session last Saturday say it’s a therapeutic place, and over the years, they’ve found a sense of community in the half-acre garden.

“Everybody out here likes playing in the dirt,” said Debbie Prysby of Littleton.

Prysby works at St. Gregory’s. Through the garden, she has strengthened relationships and learned a lot.

“It is a really good group of people and a really good community that we have here working,” she added.

Two large beds are specifically designated for the food bank. All gardeners participate in watering, weeding and harvesting of the produce. By joining the Chatfield Community Garden volunteers agree to donate two hours a month to help with common areas. This largely entails taking care of the food bank plots, weeding the entrance flower beds and helping with other maintenance work.

Most garden volunteers have no trouble committing the time. In fact, many are there much more often.

Cultivating the garden can be a lot of work. To help with this, groups with separate plots sometimes join forces.

“Very quickly we ended up becoming a rotational group, a multi-family rotation,” said Karen Katus, a church congregant and original garden member.

Katus works with fellow church-goer Katrina Christopher and her family, as well as Prysby and her family

It is a multi-generational effort, and together, the group has become a well-oiled machine.

“Life gets in the way sometimes, and you can’t get to the garden,” Katus said. “But since we banded together, in theory, at least one of us can come by and take care of it.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.