Growing Community in Prince George

Posted By Julia Buckingham
July 4, 2017

A garden in Prince George is helping a whole community take root.

In 2015 MCC received an incredible gift of two apartment buildings located in Prince George. MCC Legacy Trust was established to manage and operate the properties and MCC BC, along with Westwood church, and other community partners, came together to create a safe, sustainable community for people who struggle to find financially accessible housing.

The residents are a mix of students, seniors and young families, all looking for a place to call home. The apartments—119 in Park Village and 131 in Pine Glen—are being renovated by MCC Legacy Trust and an MCC staff member works on site to develop community programming that lives out the mission of MCC: caring for the whole person, making peace, and building strong, long-term relationships.

As MCC BC started to engage with the residents of these two buildings, one of the main concerns they faced was how isolated many of the residents were. As MCC Community Coordinator, Andrew Ardell, explained, “Because the rental units are month to month, there’s a lot of isolation and lots of transient people. There was nothing that united the community together because people just kept to themselves.”

After seeing the success of community gardens in other locations, Ardell talked to the residents about the possibility of building one at Park Village. He wanted to be sure that it was something they wanted to do and wasn’t something that was done to them. The garden was a communal effort from how it looked to what was planted. Several local businesses came on board with volunteers and supplies, and kids from the neighbourhood painted wooden animals that were attached to the sides of the garden boxes.

Children painted wooden animals to decorate the sides of the garden boxes. (MCC Photo/Andrew Ardell)
Children painted wooden animals to decorate the sides of the garden boxes. (MCC Photo/Andrew Ardell)

The garden is in a space about 40’ x 20’ with cherry trees, blueberries, strawberries, and six 8’ x 4’ garden boxes filled with herbs and every kind of vegetable that will grow in Prince George. Residents rotate watering duties. The families get to keep what they have grown and some of the food will be shared at a harvest party in the fall.

“Now people have ownership of where they live. They are looking after their apartments more, they’re picking up the garbage when they walk by because they’re working to grow this garden.” – Andrew Ardell

The garden also promotes healthy eating and there’s an after school program where kids are involved with taking care of the plants and learning about gardening, patience, and how things grow.

Before the garden was built many residents did not know their own neighbors. Now Ardell sees seniors going over to each other’s houses because they met in the garden. Parents often bring their kids to see what is growing and it has become a meeting place that unites the wider community around Park Village.

MCC always works to help empower the individual and Ardell says he has seen this happening firsthand in Prince George. “Now people have ownership of where they live. They are looking after their apartments more, they’re picking up the garbage when they walk by because they’re working to grow this garden.”

Working in the garden together has also built up a rapport between the residents and Ardell and others who work in the community, which has helped connect residents to other programs and resources.

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Residents gathered together to plant the garden on a sunny day in June. (MCC Photo/Andrew Ardell)

There are already plans for the garden to continue next year and it may expand to a second garden at the Pine Glen building as even more families want to participate.

The needs around the world are great, but we can make a difference. The innovative donation of revenue-generating assets is one more way you can respond to a world longing to be in right relationship with God, one another, and creation. We invite you to visit mcclegacy.ca to learn more about the work of MCC Legacy Trust.

If you’d like to learn more about starting a community garden in your area, you can connect with Andrew Ardell at andrewardell@mccbc.ca.