Back last summer, Keep Knoxville Beautiful contacted Christenberry Elementary School’s Community School Site Resource Coordinator Kristen Jaggers to let her know about a $2,500 Community Partners grant from Lowe’s to be used on a community garden.
Jaggers, who is not a procrastinator, wasted no time recruiting a team. She contacted Matt Sterling, owner of Sterling Contracting and an Oakwood Lincoln Park neighbor of the school. Sterling came onboard, and so did 15 student volunteers from the University of South Carolina via the Alternative Break Program (they were on Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s contact list). Forester Casey Krouse, who is married to Christenberry speech language pathologist Beth Krouse, donated gravel.
Jaggers got the project coordinated by fall, but near-constant rain plus the limited availability of weekend workdays created big problems.
“Weekends are sacred around here, so we tried to make the job as compact as possible. We had one day for the project and picked Oct. 20 – it rained cats and dogs.”
But they got it done, and last Thursday they won the award for best community garden at KKB’s 2019 Orchid Awards.
Now it’s almost planting time. Jaggers has had students (particularly the Daisy Scouts) collecting tiny milk cartons from the school cafeteria, which they’ll repurpose by painting them yellow, filling them with dirt and planting them with sunflower seeds. They’ll arrange the seedlings in a sunburst design and enter the finished product in a Carton 2 Garden contest that Jaggers found.
“We’re crossing our fingers and hoping we’ll be considered for that, too,” Jaggers said. “We are all very grateful for Keep Knoxville Beautiful. The impact they are having with their tiny staff of three is wonderful.
“This community garden was really a labor of love – a beautiful, collaborative effort. All these people came together to make this happen. This is a really good example of what a community school is about – leveraging partnerships and relationships to bring resources to our school family and community. We had a small budget, but big dreams.”