PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. (WMBF) - A community garden off Petigru Drive in Pawleys Island is less than a year old, but it’s making its mark in the greater Grand Strand area.
Not only is it a safe space for dozens of kids from Georgetown County, but it’s teaching them invaluable life lessons. It’s also helping keep fresh food in the bellies of thousands of people in Georgetown and Horry counties.
“The garden idea was somehow my idea. I was brave enough to speak it out and go after it, and here we are today,” Giany Guedjo said. “We actually started this building back on May 5 last year, so it’s less than a year now.”
Guedjo is the executive director of the non-profit Carolina Human Reinvestment. He spent his younger years on a farm in West Africa and said he saw the benefit of a different learning environment.
“That was my motivation. The children we are serving, they struggle with learning. I use this platform as a safe space for them, as a reward for them,” he said. “Go to school and do your best, and then we get to go to the garden. So this is a field trip actually for them.”
The children range in grades from kindergarten to middle school. They work in two groups depending on age. In the after-school program they take part in scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, planting and gardening at the Community Garden.
“First you have the grade improvement. My challenge to them is do good in the classroom and then we get to go to the garden,” Guedjo said. “I use that to see improvement in their grades because now they challenge themselves. If you don’t have that grade, the A’s and B’s, you’re not allowed to come out.”
For 10-year-old Lasiyah, she loves the plants and watering them. She said she’ll sometimes even talk to them when no one is around.
“We get to bring them home and eat them. Then we also get to take carrots and vegetables and stuff home for salads and stuff for dinner,” Lasiyah said. “It makes my grandma really happy.”
Fifth-grader Jessica likes the socializing aspect the garden provides, as well as the opportunity to learn about new plans and just have fun.
“It’s just a nice place to be,” Jessica said. “It makes me think this place used to be just barren wasteland until we improved it and made it a whole greenhouse.”
It’s especially hard to believe because in just a year students like Jessica and Lasiyah have helped feed thousands of people across the Grand Strand.
“We have never turned anybody away. We’ve never had to, thank heavens, and we never would,” Nancy Cave, the co-coordinator of the Baskervill Food Pantry, said. “We are a wellness pantry. So, being able to give everyone fresh produce, collards, kale, tomatoes, apples, oranges, all different things, it’s a very critical part of that wellness.”
The Pawleys Island Community Garden plays an integral role, along with other area gardens, in providing fresh vegetables daily to the Baskervill Food Pantry.
“I prepare right now 15 to 20 bags of vegetables every day,” Dottie D’Ambrosio said.
D’Amboriso is in charge of all fresh foods and gets daily deliveries from the community gardens.
“They fly off the shelves, and I’m always glad to see that it’s mostly gone because somebody’s eating fresh produce,” she said.
Right now collards, lettuces, onions and herbs like dill are in abundance.
Baskervill Food Pantry gives canned foods, eggs, frozen meat and fresh produce to each client. Cave said they get about 1,200 pounds of food in daily. Their clientele has increased by 37% during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the year before, she said.
“It’s wonderful to know that somebody’s getting some thing on their table that’s fresh from the garden, picked sometimes the same day,” D’Ambrosio said of the importance of the gardens like the Community Garden, kept up by little gardeners like Jessica and Lasiyah.
“We try to instill in the kids the giving back process. So while they’re growing, they know they’re feeding the community at the same time,” Guedjo said of the kids.
He said the kids come to the garden once a week, and it’s maintained by volunteers throughout the week. But, it’s a program he plans to keep going.
To learn more about Carolina Human Reinvestment and the Community Garden, click here.