March 1, 2013: Two women bring hope to life in community garden, by Sister Julie Christensen

March 1, 2013 by

Spring is at hand (with perhaps a few lingering winter storms), which means for many of us a chance to get into our gardens and begin planting.

Over the last four years Concordia has had the opportunity to see the “Community Garden of Hope” come into existence. Now that our community garden is reality, I am regularly overjoyed by the abundance of produce and the nature of the smiles on the gardeners’ faces as we tend our plots. Even in the event of knee-high weeds and rabbit-eaten plants, the smiles and greetings persist. The longing to be there continues.

Sister Betty Suther, left, listens as Cecilia Thrash talks about the new Concordia Community Garden of Hope at a Community Needs Forum “working lunch” in January 2010.

As the Concordia Year of Peace celebrates unsung heroes within our community, I want to celebrate Sister Betty Suther and Cecilia Thrash, the two women who oversee the community garden. They were behind the garden’s inception and will be the overseers for many seasons to come.

This project embodies the importance and effects of collaboration for many people in our community, including me.

Much of my interest came from a latent green thumb yearning to be developed. Then I realized my neighbors in the garden were also trying out their skills. My first stories of success were definitely turnips and carrots, but as time has progressed and my skills have increased, I am surprised by the diversity of produce and the hopeful feelings gardening brings.

Sister Betty Suther is the quiet and thoughtful visionary behind the community garden. She collaborated with many and hosted conversations about the best community garden design for Concordia. She looked for help with start-up costs and suggestions from our extension agents on how to be the most environmentally friendly.

Cecilia Thrash is the plotter. With assistance from many others, she helped establish the actual plots; she laid the first of the mulched paths, worked at recruiting people to tend the plots and did much of the first tilling of the plots. She continues to be the go-to person for gardeners needing help.

Cecilia has been a huge believer in the project. In fact, she’s been so involved that her husband has now decided to take on some leadership in the project.

As I saw (and continue to see) these two women working toward the goal of a functioning and beautiful garden, I am most exhilarated by their choice of the name, “Community Garden of Hope.”

From my perspective, “hope” is a word we sink into in times of need or distress, and every person knows those moments. The word seems to have the power to dig us out of the most despondent situations to see something better. “ Hope” is the mantra for our community garden and the inspiration for these two amazing gardeners of our community.

I have the distinct pleasure of working with these women. Their dedication is a source of hope and encouragement for me and for all the community garden gardeners. Thank you, Sister Betty Suther and Cecilia Thrash, for the thoughtful and fulfilling work you do to make our community a hope-filled place to be and to live.

— Sister Julie Christensen is a Sister of St. Joseph and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee. She is the coordinator for youth and young adult programs at Manna House of Prayer.



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