Faith group takes on Harold Oliver Elementary’s Global Garden

These parishioners demonstrate their belief that, sometimes, helping their community means volunteering for hard work with a rake and shovel …

Pastor Vance Hays of Parklane Christian Reformed Church and Dave Koetje of Koetje Tree Service take a moment to rest from their work on the Harold Oliver Elementary School Global Garden.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
More and more, civic groups and businesses are “adopting” programs and outer East Portland schools. Churches are usually focused on loftier pursuits.

But members of Parklane Christian Reformed Church say they were looking for a tangible way to help the community – and they didn’t have to look far. They found their opportunity for service right next door to the church.

A couple of weeks ago, we caught up with volunteers from the church as they toiled in the soil at Harold Oliver Elementary School’s Global Garden.

Andrea Covey is sprucing up the heather patch.

“We decided to clean up and maintain the garden,” explained Parklane member – and owner of Koetje Tree Service – Dave Koetje.

“We decided to do this because – well, it needs it,” Koetje elaborated. “The opportunity is right here, next to our church. We decided to ‘adopt’ this garden so the school doesn’t have to worry about it.”

Justin Koch, Nathan Koetje, Paul Covey, and Fred Lawer say thinning and moving a stand of bamboo is a big task, but they’re up to the challenge.

Plants from around the world
After being established several years ago, the school’s Global Garden, located between its primary and intermediate education buildings had fallen into disrepair.

“This garden is a great idea,” commented Vance Hays, Parklane’s pastor. “As you wander up and down here, you’ll see different plans from different parts of the world. It’s like a living plant encyclopedia. We wanted to make it attractive again.”

Hays credited Koetje with idea for the church to adopt the school’s garden. “During Christmas break, he and my son came over here and raked fallen leaves. We saw the garden needed more work, and decided to pitch in. We’ve decided, as a church, to actively help improve our neighborhood – and here we are.”

Dave Koch and Mike Vander Veen leveling out outdoor tables in the Harold Oliver Global Garden.

Long term commitment
We watched as associate pastor Mike Vander Veen and parishioner Dave Koch leveled tilting picnic tables by terracing the ground on which they sit.

“This is a continuing effort for us,” said Vander Veen as he paused from his labors. “We’re not going to just clean and run. Although the Global Garden has been adopted by the church, we do invite folks from our community join us in the work. You don’t have to be a member of the church to come help out.”

Keep an eye out; Vander Veen said he’ll let us know when they’ll be holding their next work party. Bring your gloves and pitch in!

If you live in outer East Portland, and want to help the school’s Global Garden thrive, watch for this group’s next work party date.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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