PALMER — On Saturday, dozens of community members and nine Palmer High School girls basketball players worked to create a unique opportunity for good to grow in downtown Palmer.
With cooperation from Grow Palmer, Alaska Family Services, Palmer Basketball and donations from the Palmer Community Foundation and the Mat-Su Health Foundation, raised garden beds were assembled by volunteers for the C’enyaexde Ugheli community garden on Alaska Street in Palmer.
C’enyaexde Ugheli is the Ahtha phrase for ‘something good grows.’
“The fact that we’ve constructed these beds, that they’re going to be free this year, that we’ve got all of these donations and starts I think is just a really incredible demonstration of how the community of Palmer can come out and support each other,” said Alaska Family Services President Desiré Shepler.
On the 3,000 square feet of lawn on the corner of South Alaska Street and East Cottonwood Avenue in Palmer, a total of four dump truck loads dropped 34 square yards of soil from Tracy Moffitt. The soil was arranged in raised beds with cinderblocks from Valley Block and Concrete. Grow Palmer partner Jan Newman helped coordinate the construction of the community garden, but the C’enyaexde Ugheli is separate from the Grow Palmer public food garden. Grow Palmer has provided food for the public for eight growing seasons, and the new community garden is for families to have access to fresh, healthy food they can grow themselves. The garden plots and seeds are free of charge, but interested gardeners can register by contacting Grow Palmer.
“I am absolutely thrilled and over the moon that this is happening. There’s been so much interest and clearly a lot of people are involved in the construction. I anticipate all of these beds being filled by different families for years to come,” said Newman.
Alongside the nine Palmer High School girls basketball players, another dozen members of the community donned facial coverings and Carhartts as they moved the dirt into raised garden beds that will grow food for families throughout the summer. While perennial plants are not permitted, gardeners can choose to grow anything else they want in the C’enyaexde Ugheli community garden outside Alaska Family Services.
“The roots of course of AFS is helping women in our community, so it’s always nice when we see the community coming together to continue to find ways to do that,” said Shepler.
Palmer High School girls basketball head coach Keith Williams said that the three tenets of his basketball program is based on scholarship, character and service. While the nine hoopers were moving wheel barrels full of dirt and smoothing out the surfaces on the raised garden beds, Williams and the organizers made sure that everyone who volunteered remained safe.
“They’re having a great time. Everybody’s being safe. We’ve got the sanitizer, we’ve got people that need to have the masks with masks on,” said Williams. “This it’s all about being cohesive and team building. From the freshmen to the seniors, we talk about the Palmer family, the Palmer girls basketball family. When we break the huddle we truly truly mean that we are a family and this is what it’s about, right there, and part of being a family is giving back to the community.”