Private Donors Keep Community Garden Growing

DES MOINES, Iowa — It was mid-April and things were looking bleak.

“They are going to charge $50 rental per month,” said Ralph Chiodo, “plus the cost of our water, and they want a $650 deposit on the box as well.”

In 2014, Des Moines Water Works would no longer be giving free water access to the King-Irving Community Garden.

“There’s just no way our neighborhood could come up with a down payment and that $50 a month,” said neighbor, Terry Mitchell.

In the three months sincce, things have changed. Everything worked out.

“People that haven’t been here for a couple of weeks come and see the gardens and just go ‘WOW!’” says Chiodo who manages the garden as a part of his Forest Avenue Outreach program.

It wasn’t hard to find people who loved Chiodo’s story.

He took an abandoned lot in a low income neighborhood, employed local kids, and grew an oasis in what neighbors call a “food desert.”

“It’s kind of like our little personal farmer’s market, here,” says Marcus Green, who lives in the house next door on 18th Street.

Donors stepped up, offering money, supplies and equipment.

“We had a gentleman from Norwalk sponsor the water meter,” Chiodo says. “(He) gave us the money to do that and he said hold on to that, that’ll be a perpetual gift, so every year we’ve got our water meter covered and our deposit for that.”

The irony is worth noting: it’s been so wet, Chiodo has paid far more for the access fees than for the actual water. But it’s still a huge relief for a garden that runs on donations and gives all of its produce to charities and neighbors.

“Out of all the bad things that may have happened to the neighborhood,” says Green, “this is probably one of the stars of the neighborhood.”

And that star keeps shining; reassuring us that sometimes, good things happen to good people.

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