by Paulette Alakas

Last spring the seed of an idea was planted.

The new Rector William Alakas, observing the vast green space beside St. Columba St. Catharines, envisioned using the land to provide fresh vegetables for those most in need in the community.

When he shared this idea with the congregation, parishioners Mark and Tammy Houtby stepped forward and offered instead a sizeable garden plot of their farm property, affectionately dubbed “The Angelic Acre”.

The entire parish was thrilled with such an idea and immediately voiced support and excitement about a new and unique project to help transform and broaden their parish’s involvement in St. Catharines community.

A group of interested parishioners, along with the rector, came together to formulate a plan.

Very quickly seeds were acquired and a working team assembled. Mark ploughed and prepared the soil. He offered small tomato and potato plants started in his greenhouses.

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The Angelic Acre project at St. Columba St. Catharines produced a bumper crop during its first year of operations to provide fresh vegetables for those in need. Preparations for its second year are well advanced. Photo: Paulette Alakas

Along with generously donated seeds, a wide variety of vegetables was planted.

Parishioner Peter Proctor, with much experience and skill in this area, led teams who took turns caring for the plants, watering daily, inspecting, then weeding. The parish finally harvested over 100 pounds of carrots and potatoes, 25 bags of kale, nearly 40 squash, 75 large zucchini and dozens of smaller ones, over 50 cabbages and about a dozen watermelons.

Deliveries were frequent during the summer and fall to Community Care where they were received with excitement. Eventually deliveries were also extended to Start Me Up Niagara on occasion, all to benefit our community.

Plans are well underway for an expansion and growth of this “garden of plenty” this year.

It has become a reminder, for each parishioner at St. Columba, of Christ as the new gardener and the theology of abundance in God’s creation for the care of all people.

It is an exciting and holy endeavour that surpassed all of our expectations and hopes, just as God’s gifts always do.

Paulette Alakas is a member of St. Columba St. Catharines.