Community Garden Helps Reduce Crime

By: Jordan Shefte Email
By: Jordan Shefte Email

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In a neighborhood with high crime and gang activity, a little bit of hope is growing.

Last year, a community garden was created at 20th Street North and Shelton. Graffiti and gang activity used to be at the center of this community, but now there's a project that's brought the neighborhood together to plant peace.

"We have an eggplant there by the communal sign, butternut and acorn squash in here, red cabbage and some broccoli down at the other end," said gardener Deborah Sanders.

In 2011, the organization Safe Streets Wichita created the planting peace community garden.

Garden coordinator Gindy Galstad says that since that time, graffiti has reduced by about 75 percent, and even gang activity has decreased.

"There used to be a couple of picnic tables down here where they would hang out all the time, and sometimes walk by with their big tough dogs," Galstad said. "I offered them pepper plants and tomato plants one day and ever since then, they say 'Hi,' and I pet their dogs."

Deborah Sanders plants in one of the plots. She lives just four blocks away from the garden and has noticed the change in the neighborhood.

"The people are friendlier," Sanders said. "They aren't vandalizing my car so much anymore, instead they wave at me,"

The garden has even gotten some of the children involved. Boy Scouts built compost bins and local youth helped assemble the garden boxes.

"We just have to do what we can do," Galstad said. "These kids are not in gangs because they're bad kids, they are in gangs because they are missing; they have a void in their life,"

This community garden is creating roots, both in the ground, and in the community.

"I love to garden here because it makes me feel worthwhile, and gives me something to do in the community," Sanders said. "I see the joy in everybody's faces as they pick their own produce,"

If you'd like to see the progress made at the community garden, this weekend is a great opportunity. In celebration of Food Day, there will be a Wichita Area Community Garden and Farm Tour.

The Planting Peace Community Garden will be one of six community gardens on the tour. Tickets are free, and the event takes place on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.

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