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Sellwood bank boosts gardening interest at Llewellyn

by: David F. Ashton Llewellyn Principal Steve Powell and Sellwood Umpqua Bank Store Manager Elizabeth Galbreath gather students for the community garden’s dedication.

A community garden at Llewellyn Elementary School has reportedly been a dream for more than three years.

The dream became reality on Friday, June 3rd, when a new garden on the school grounds was dedicated in front of 500 Llewellyn students, parents, faculty, Sellwood-Westmoreland garden volunteer, and Umpqua Bank associates.

'Two things held back creating a community garden here,' said Principal Steve Powell. 'First, we didn't know where to put it. But, when we installed the modular classroom, we saw a space between the classroom and the sidewalk [on the west edge of the campus], that would be an adequate location - and would have sufficient sunshine.'

The other obstacle, Powell added, was having the money to prepare the ground, and build and fence the garden. This spring, the needed funding came from a bank - not as a loan, but as a $10,000 grant.

'When some banks come into a market,' explained Elizabeth Galbreath, 'Store Manager' of the new Sellwood Umpqua Bank, 'They try to attract customers by giving promotional rates and gifts. But, we wanted to give our community something more lasting in value, so we have the Umpqua Bank 'Build your Block Program'.

'The bank encourages neighbors submit ideas for our block grant program,' Galbreath explained. 'This project was our winner. More than giving them a check, we're also an active participant in the project. I worked with the PTA, families, and the parents who came up with the idea to help this garden get built.'

With the funding, volunteers got contractors to rip out the remaining asphalt, build ten raised garden beds, add picnic tables, fence the garden, and provide a nice sign - on the back of which is a community bulletin board.

'We wrote the grant application together,' said Wendy Temple as she stood next to partner Jennifer Hilton who submitted it. 'We have been working to coordinate all of the installation and the plans.'

Hilton explained, 'It is so important for our children have this opportunity to experience, work and learn in the garden here at school. We want our young people coming outdoors and learning how food is grown, and that it can be eaten fresh, and be locally-grown.'

The garden will be tended through the summer, Powell pointed out. 'During summer vacation, the YMCA has a program here, on-site. They will care for and harvest the summer crop for their snacks and lunches. Some of our parents and families will also come in to help and share in the harvest.'

When school resumes at summer's end, students will plant fall crops that will be harvested in late October, Principal Powell added. 'There's nothing like seeing smiles on kids' faces when they discover they can eat food that's grown from seeds that they've planted.'