The Garden and the Town

Once upon a time, a community worked together to plant a garden so their neighbors in need could have fresh vegetables.

In New Prague this is not a fairy tale. This is becoming a reality.

The idea occurred to Matt Goldade while on a bike ride. How could he help the Peace Center, the local food shelf, to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables?

“I had just read an article about food shelves needing fresh foods,” he says. “And I thought, ‘Why can’t we do something to provide healthier food? Why should they have to eat canned food all the time?’”

Goldade had just joined Holy Trinity with his wife and daughters and thought of the unused land around the church building. Aware of the Small Town Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), and a member of the Rotary Club of New Prague, he wanted to do something.
 
“Everything in my head kept snowballing. I knew about the grant and I thought, ‘What can New Prague do?’”
 
After calling the pastors to see if they could secure space for a garden, he contacted Rita Goggins, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the Peace Center, to verify they had the room for more produce. Then he presented his idea and the SMIF grant to the New Prague Rotary Club.
 
 

The Idea of Community

 
Jessica Dohm, President of the Rotary Club, was excited from the beginning. “Things move forward because of communities,” she says. “If it were one person trying to do this one big project on their own, it would probably be doomed to failure. But if a bunch of people just come together and give a little bit of time, you can do really great, impactful things. To me, that’s the whole idea of community.” 
 
Dohm called Praha Village Senior Living and asked if the residents would be interested in planting or maintaining the garden. The answer was a resounding “Yes!”

Last summer, Rotary was awarded the full grant of $10,000 for a Peace Garden from SMIF. Along with Rotary’s $2500 donation, they have a sizable head start on raising money for the plants and lumber. The Peace Garden, named after the Peace Center, will be built and maintained by members of the community to help those in need have better access to healthier options.

“This is small-town living at its best,” says HTLC Pastor Ben Hilding, also in the Rotary Club. “The Rotary principle motto is ‘Service above Self.’”

Pastor Ben is also impressed with the different organizations getting involved. The Boy Scouts offered service hours to help. The City of New Prague gave advice, support, and feedback on the location. The Green Team at New Prague High School expressed interest in collaborating. And local businessman Nick Slavik agreed to help with the build and coordination of the project.

 

The Peace Center

 

“In a sentence? I can’t wait!” says Rita Goggins, Volunteer Services Coordinator of the Peace Center. “I’m excited the community has come together to think of us. It’s so helpful when they are behind us.”

Goggins and the volunteers at the Peace Center, supported by the Mayo Clinic, strive to provide their clients with the healthiest food possible. “We want to provide year-round the best possible food,” she says. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a need and a want. This will make it easier to provide the best food possible. And I love the community piece, the relationships.”

The Peace Center recently restructured their space to allow for more produce. In the past, they relied solely on grocery store donations, some of which are understandably a few days old. The additional carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes will be appreciated by those in need.
 
 

God is in the Details

The Peace Garden will be planted in Spring 2022, in the southeast corner of the parking lot in front of the trees. (For those directionally-challenged like me, that’s to the right of the Prayer Garden.) The beds will be elevated to make it easier on volunteers, especially those at Praha Village. All food grown will go to providing the clients of the Peace Center with healthier options.

The Rotary Club of New Prague will be driving the project, but anyone can get involved. You do not have to be a member of New Prague Rotary, Holy Trinity, Praha Village, or the Boy Scouts to get involved.
 
 
 

How Can I Help?

“If people are interested in participating on any level, the planning of the garden, the building, the planting, maintaining, harvesting… all of that we need help with,” says Dohm. “But I don’t want to solicit people’s assistance and make them feel it’s long-term. You can even help for an hour.” Email Dohm (admin@newpraguerotary.com) to offer your services, sign up for the Garden Committee, or to ask questions.

The price of lumber rose significantly last year so donations are also appreciated. “Donations will go towards making it more accessible for those at Praha Village, making it a more personal space.” says Goldade. The New Prague Rotary Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), so all donations are tax deductible. Checks can be made to the New Prague Rotary Foundation and mailed to PO Box 92, New Prague, MN 56071. “We’re even working on getting Venmo!” says Dohm.

 
 

The End

“We are so grateful to HTLC for the gift of the land usage in order to initiate this project,” says Dohm. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t even have been a remote possibility.”

Goldade is now on the board of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, but he does not participate in the grant committees. It is his job, along with many others, to make people aware of these available grants. He remains passionate about helping his neighbors, his community.

“Just because you don’t have a lot of money in your pockets doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the same ability to eat healthy,” says Matt.
 
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
October 21, 2021

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