Seniors and at-risk youths are finding common ground between piles of mulch scattered across the lawn at Oklahoma County Social Services.
With the assistance of several nonprofits and the know-how of a few good gardeners, the county organization on Monday expanded its organic vegetable garden to include an orchard.
Last year, more than 450 pounds of squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables were harvested from the Garden of Hope and distributed to low-income seniors, said Christi Jernigan, director of Oklahoma County Social Services.
In three years, when the orchard matures, the seniors will get blackberries, cherries, apples and pears.
The garden and orchard is the culmination of a partnership between two extremely different nonprofit organizations that found each other through the county agency, Jernigan said.
Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Central Oklahoma was trying to boost the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables distributed to the county's senior meal sites, and a Midwest City-based anti-gang program was looking for projects for young people.
The garden worked for both groups, Jernigan said.
“They bring those kids out and they help with the gardening and the planting and harvesting, and so the kids get to have that experience of being around some older adults, have some mentoring and also learning about how gardens grow and where their foods come from,” she said.