The community garden at Inver Hills Community College has yielded a unique outreach project.
A group of 10 students and faculty members from the Inver Grove Heights college and St. Paul’s Metro State University recently returned from Newtown, Conn., where they planted 30 apple, fig, peach and cherry trees in the town’s Victory Garden. Another 30 fruit trees went to residents to plant in their yards.
All are to honor the memories of the 26 people killed last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“We have seen how our community garden can teach students to work for something that’s bigger than themselves,” said Barbara Curchack, a psychology professor at Inver Hills who helped establish the community college’s garden. “It also can be a source of healing.”
The idea to extend that sense of healing to Newtown came not long after the Sandy Hook tragedy from Curchack and August Hoffman, a Metro State psychology professor. Hoffman first contacted Amy Mangold, Newtown’s parks and recreation director, late last year.
The town had been overwhelmed by well-wishers after the shootings and for a while put a moratorium on accepting offers of help. Curchack said their offer was eventually accepted and fit Newtown’s plans to add an orchard to its community garden. She and Hoffman were among those who made the trip.
“We wanted to help but didn’t want to impose,” Hoffman said. He said residents welcomed the Minnesota group and helped plant the trees donated by the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. The group also met with a teacher and a Red Cross coordinator who had been at the school at the time of the shootings.
“It was a day I will never forget,” Mangold said. “The orchard is beautiful. When I visit it, I am filled with the joy of that day and know that the gifts from this visit have only just begun.”
The orchard planting Oct. 5 wound up coinciding with another new beginning for the community. That day, Newtown residents voted to raze and rebuild Sandy Hook School.