Our Giving Garden partners with other non-profits to provide organic vegetables and a safe space.
Neighbor helping neighbor is a tradition throughout the ages. It’s an idea that lives on at Our Giving Garden, a different kind of community venture that shares its bounty with people in need in the suburban Atlanta communities of Mableton and Smyrna, and throughout Cobb County and Metro Atlanta.
In spring 2017, a group of neighbors started a garden on a vacant lot owned by Vinings Lake Church in Mableton. That summer’s harvest yielded 500 pounds of food. During four seasons the garden has produced about 4,000 pounds of food and more than 4,000 eggs from its brood of chickens.
“We wanted to interrupt hunger in our community, and provide fresh food to the people who live here,” says Judy Byler, a registered nutritionist who helped launch Our Giving Garden. “Now we’re taking that a step further, and providing families with a safe place to start over.”
Today, the project has expanded to a one-acre garden, four goats, a donkey, 30 chickens, and the start of an orchard with fruit trees. A partnership with Family Promise, a non-profit that helps the homeless, uses a house on the property to provide a temporary home for those working their way out of poverty.
To distribute the bounty Our Giving Garden formed a partnership with another nonprofit, Sweetwater Mission, one of Georgia’s largest food pantries, where families don’t receive a handout chosen by someone else, but select what they need at a center designed like a grocery story. Dignity and respect pass from neighbor to neighbor along with the food.
“We are humbled by the support we receive from the community, especially all the people that help manage an all-volunteer operation.” Judy says. “We’ve had church members, scouts, school groups and corporate delegations come to help. We also raised money to buy the 3.5-acre property since banks don’t usually give mortgages to organizations that give everything away.”
What inspires Judy and the scores of volunteers is the potential of the garden and house.
“We’re a young organization and we’re just beginning to find out how much we can do, like running gardening camps for children on school breaks,” says Judy. “People come here to make friends and become a community of service to others. It’s hard work, but it’s so rewarding to know you’re changing people’s lives.”
Cingo means to surround and secure — to protect. That’s what we do. And we have a lot of respect for those who take it upon themselves to make protection a part of what they do, too. That’s why we’ve launched Circle & Shield, our award to a member of the community who helps make the world a better place, a safer place.