By Nikki Velarde, The Belton Journal
Friday morning the City of Belton officially dedicated the city’s first community garden with the traditional ribbon cutting. Garden analogies were being thrown left and right.
“They’ve definitely planted a seed, and we’re looking forward to seeing it grow,” said Mayor Marion Grayson in regards to the community garden project taken on by this years’ Leadership Belton class.
Former Mayor and fellow garden advocate, Bill Holmes, delivered the invocation at the beginning of the garden dedication. During his time as Belton Mayor, Holmes had originally presented the idea of constructing a community garden after traveling with his wife, Janis, and seeing community gardens in other cities.
“It’s the best one in Texas, I’ll tell you that,” Janis Holmes commented. “The city staff saw a need and had a vision,” Bill Holmes added.
Mark Arrazola, Interim President and Programs Director for the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce has been staff liaison for Leadership Belton for the past 9 years. It is a community engagement leadership program that gives back to the community and runs 10 months out of the year. It features the three key elements of Community Awareness Training, Leadership Training, as well as Team Building. The program takes time to delve deeper into each element.
During the final element the class selects a short-term or long-term project within the community of Belton that ultimately has a lasting impact. The goal is to allow the group to see the different dynamic personalities they may encounter in their everyday life and how to work through a project with those influences. Great projects have yielded great things and sparked an amazing network system throughout our community, the community garden being the most recent addition.
“We want people to get engaged in the community and grow to be better leaders,” said Arrazola. “We want them to have a sense of pride for their community and to give back.”
“A lot of families that are going to be able to use this garden to plant and come together to grow something great which is something that is a deep rooted tradition in Belton,” Arrazola added. “We are going to grow some deep roots here too.”
Lindsay Fredenberg, Director of Advancement and Admissions at Holy Trinity Catholic High School and member of this years’ Leadership Belton class, spoke for her classmates. “We got in a little over our heads, and some of us have literal scars from it. We took on this project thinking that a community garden would be fantastic but I don’t think any of us really knew what that meant or how large a scale it would be.”
“It rained 26 out of 31 days in May, so the odds are we did this all in the rain,” Fredenberg added. Each member of Leadership Belton helped construct the 21 wooden boxes that house 39 gardening plots.
“But what a privilege it was to come together with coworkers and members of the community and spend time to create something that is literally going to give something back to the City of Belton,” said Fredenberg. “This has allowed our community to come together and work together to see the fruits of their labor.”
The projects done by Leadership Belton are fully funded by donations that are obtained by the team. The generous donors that made Belton’s Community Garden possible include The City of Belton, Covington Real Estate, Javier Alonzo, Belton Lions Club, Thomas and Heidi Brautigan, Aaron Harris, Nicholas and Jennifer Jones, Bill and Janis Holmes, Brandon and Jessica Bozon, Heath Box, James Grant, and Byron Sinclair.
For more information on how to participate in Leadership Belton, please contact Mark Arrazola at the Chamber at (254) 939-3551.