by: David F. Ashton, 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.

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 weeks ago, volunteers from the church toiled in the soil at Harold Oliver Elementary School's Global Garden.

'We decided to do this because - well, it needs it,' said Parklane member - and owner of Koetje Tree Service - Dave Koetje. '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.'

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,' said Vance Hays, Parklane's pastor. 'As you wander up and down here, you'll see different plants from different parts of the world. It's like a living plant encyclopedia. We wanted to make it attractive again.'

Hays credited Koetje with the idea for the church to adopt the school's garden.

'During Christmas break, he and my son came over here and raked fallen leaves,' Hays said. '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.'

Long-term commitment

Mike Vander Veen, associate pastor, and volunteer Dave Koch leveled tilting picnic tables by terracing the ground under them.

'This is a continuing effort for us,' said Vander Veen as he paused from his labors. 'We're not going to just clean it up and walk away from this project. Although the Global Garden has been adopted by the church, we do invite folks from our community join us in the effort. This isn't a church project - it is a community project, done with help of people from our community, next door to our church.'

Pitch in on March 29

They're having another Harold Oliver 'Global Garden' work party on the last Saturday of March from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Dress appropriately, bring gardening tools and join in the Spring Clean-up with your outer East Portland neighbors.

Harold Oliver School is located at 15811 S.E. Main St. (about two blocks west of 162nd Ave.) For more information, call lead Koetje at 503-667-3959.

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