Holy Cross Parish photo
Dick Ballweber was a main force behind building garden to feed needy.
Holy Cross Parish photo
Dick Ballweber was a main force behind building garden to feed needy.
An empty strip of land alongside the gym at Holy Cross Parish in North Portland is now bearing vegetables for the needy.

Father Mark Bachmeier, pastor, suggested a garden to augment the church’s busy St. Vincent de Paul food pantry. Parishioners, including teachers and students from the parish school, made it happen.

Now in mid-summer stature are sunflowers, corn, lettuce, cucumbers and carrots.
Dick Ballweber, a frequent volunteer worker in the food bank, built raised beds with custodian Bill Loso, using shelves and siding leftover after a renovation of the pantry. Best Buy In Town Landscape Supply of Hillsboro donated soil and Ballweber paid for a dump truck to transport it to North Portland.

A retired geological technician, he layered the donation with local soil in different ways in different plots to see what works best. He says the radiation of heat from the gym wall will help the plants.

The garden will be a science experiment for school children, who will use it to observe plant growth. The youngsters also will get an experience of work by weeding and watering.

“It’s an act of service and it incorporates science,” says Brenda Martin, who teaches third grade. Her high-school-age sons Benjamin, Anthony and Isaac helped build the garden.
“Our goal is to integrate science, math and language arts with the gardening, which is a really exciting opportunity,” says Suzanne DeVaney-Wilkes, who teaches second grade. She foresees students doing things as varied as writing essays about plants and testing the soil.

“And feeding the hungry ties in so beautifully with our Catholic identity,” DeVaney-Wilkes says.

Nancy Jordan, the school librarian, researched the angelus, when church bells rang throughout the village to remind people of the encounter Mary had with the angel Gabriel. Those working the fields traditionally stopped to pray during the bell ringing.