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Belmond-Klemme community garden has added meaning amid COVID-19
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Belmond-Klemme community garden has added meaning amid COVID-19

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Belmond Children's Garden

Mary Hawley looks over the Belmond Children's Garden, which she has overseen since 2000. In the past three years, she has donated produce grown there to local needy families through the United Methodist Church.

Emma Carlson

Belmond-Klemme student Emma Carlson is helping fellow students and residents stay connected during self-isolation by getting garden kits to those who want them. 

When the Belmond-Klemme Community School District announced at the beginning of the week that classes would be out until at least April 10 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a long-running area project was in danger of being disrupted. 

Since 2000, area resident Mary Hawley has helped keep up the district's community garden. At the beginning, it was a way for kids in kindergarten through third grade to have something to do but bloomed into something for everyone.

And now, at this peculiar present moment, it's a way for even more people to get involved. 

According to Hawley: Almost as soon as the school made its decision to close for nearly a month, her granddaughter, Emma Carlson, who is the FFA co-vice president, began looking for a workaround to not being able to be start needed seeds in the classroom.

And she found one. 

Belmond-Klemme's FFA chapter is partnering with True Value and nonprofit environmental group Trees Forever to get 40 garden starter kits to students willing to help at a time when they're sitting at home.

Each kit will include seeds with soil as well as instructions on how to plant and maintain crops. Then, when kids can eventually come back, the various crops can be transplanted into the community garden. Tentatively, sometime in early May.

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"I’ve always thought that everything is an opportunity and we were looking for an opportunity to do something good," Hawley said. "It’s a way to bring people together."

On top of more tightly knitting together a community, the garden also provides nutrition for residents who are food insufficient which is important during a time where a larger number of people are unemployed and feeling their budgets tighten.

The local FFA adviser Debbie Barkela said that when the produce is ready for the year it will be available in a blessing box or a sharing box. 

"It’ll help everyone keep their minds off things," Barkela said. "In our community, the garden is something that is utilized by a lot of people."

Just a smidgen of proof for the community's involvement is the fact that, in a little more than 24 hours since announcing the plan, Carlson's already received numerous calls about the kits. In fact, Hawley said that she thinks they may need to re-up on the initial 40 kits. 

Also, Carlson's encouraging anyone with extra produce from their personal garden to place items in the "Blessing Box" to share with the community.

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Reach Reporter Jared McNett at 641-421-0527. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @TwoHeadedBoy98. 

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