Gardening project brings 4-H leaders, residents together at Westminster Homes

A new community service project at the Westminster Homes in Jennings is helping local 4-H Junior Leaders learn more about nutrition, gardening and community service while giving the homes’ residents access to fresh produce.

The community garden project was supported by a $500 healthy living grant from Walmart which was matched by the Eat, Move and Grow Foundation, according to Assistant 4-H Agent Misti Walker.

The idea for the garden was inspired by Jennings Police Chief Danny Semmes, who said he would like to see more teenagers involved in project with older residents, Walker said.

On Monday, the 4-H Junior Leader Club hosted a salsa party for the residents and presented information about healthy ways to use the vegetables that were planted in the garden in April with assistance from the residents.

“I wanted to help out because the residents were not allowed to plant gardens,” 4-H student Jordan Simar said. “We got the grant to start the project and they (residents) have been able to take care of it.”

Simar said she enjoyed seeing the residents’ faces helping to get the garden started and seeing the fruits of their labor once the vegetables started growing.

“I just like talking to the people and seeing their reaction,” 4-H student Lily Duhon said.

4-H student Elodie Paquette said the project brought her closer to others.

“It feels good to help people and see all their faces light up, knowing they have something to take care of,” she said.

The students planted tomatoes, peppers, spinach and parsley and added flowers to the garden to help attract the bees. Tin pie pans were added to keep birds and other intruders away.

The students hope to expand the garden this fall to include wooden pallets or raised beds and make a bigger garden with more vegetables like cucumbers and herbs for the residents to enjoy.

“I think overall the garden project helped bring joy and give something for the people here to do,” 4-H student Liam Robertson.

Walker said the project helped the students learn about plants and best growing practices, but most of all, a way to give back to others. It also taught the students leadership skills and being good stewards in the community.

The garden received daily blessings from 69-year-old Brennana Killmer who prayed over the garden.

“I prayed for it every chance I got,” Killmer said, with a proud grin. “My faith is very positive and I think it helped.”

At 41, Candice Melancon is among the youngest residents at the home.

“I checked on my babies all the time,” Melancon said, referring to the tiny vegetables as her babies. “It was awesome to see them grow.”

Sixty-nine year-old Thomas Chaisson, who helped with the garden, said it has been a long time since he has had a project like that to keep him busy. Thomas keeps the garden watered so that the vegetables will thrive.

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