FOLLANSBEE - In addition to hundreds of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables enjoyed by area residents, a strong sense of community service and camaraderie have grown from a local garden planted by members of the Brooke-Hancock-Ohio-Marshall Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.
Angela Kocher, the program's executive director, said about 50 pounds of green beans, 80 pounds of zucchini, 100 cucumbers, 10 bushels of tomatoes and 20 watermelons and many other fruits and vegetables from the garden have been distributed through the Brooke County Senior Center to seniors and other residents at Dalesio Manor Apartments and other local seniors.
"As fast as we laid it out, it went," said Kocher.
GREEN THUMBS — Among the many taking part in a community garden organized by the Brooke-Hancock-Ohio-Marshall Retired and Senior Volunteer Program are, front, from left, Julia Stankevich, Guy Pinacchio and Carol Scurti; and back, Bill Kocher, Roger Shriner, Bruce Russell, Jim Brooks, Dick Rees and Angela Kocher, RSVP executive director. -- Warren Scott
The 40-by-90-foot garden was planted in early June at an open lot by the Virginia Avenue home of Paul and Carol Scurti.
Kocher expressed thanks to the Scurtis, who allowed them to use their lot, and to the Brooke County Committee on Aging which aided with the purchase of topsoil. Ianetti's Garden Center waived the delivery fee for the topsoil, and McMasters Trucking provided a truck used to dump fill dirt. Quality Farm and Fleet supplied fertilizer.
She added many RSVP members chipped in with equipment and materials. They included Bob Gaskins, who provided the fill dirt and a tractor; Tom McBride, who supplied a tiller; and Dick Rees, who provided metal posts used to support the tomato plants.
Kocher said many of the volunteers brought plants for the garden.
She said about 15 RSVP members worked at the garden on a daily basis, sometimes aided by children in the After-School Adventures Program sponsored by RSVP and put in hundreds of hours during the summer.
Kocher said the group had to remove a lot of rocks before the lot was suited for planting, and it welcomes donations of topsoil for next year's garden.
She said RSVP member Eddie Wilkerson played a key role in the garden's success by sharing his knowledge of gardening.
"Eddie is a natural teacher. He's great at instructing and assisting in the garden and would like to have more volunteers participate in 2013," Kocher said.
"He is a true agriculturist. He knows all about planting," agreed fellow volunteer Dick Rees.
Kocher also thanked local businesses and residents who donated money to offset the cost to water the garden.
Kocher had asked Follansbee Council about waiving the cost for the water but it's illegal for the city to do that.
Council agreed instead to lease the property from the Scurtis for a small cost, since the city won't bill itself for the water, which originates from a source separate from the Scurti home.
Kocher expressed thanks to council for its help and to Mayor David Velegol Jr., who also made a monetary contribution before that arrangement was reached.
She said she first heard about volunteer groups working community gardens while attending a conference in Washington, D.C.
Kocher added a community garden also has been planted in the McMechen-Benwood area by RSVP members in Marshall County, and Carl Martino, one of the Scurti's neighbors, has offered to loan his lot so the garden can be expanded next year.
Anyone interested in helping or participating in RSVP should call (304) 527-3410.
(Scott can be contacted at email@example.com)