Nothing can beat the taste of freshly picked vegetables and savory herbs harvested right from the garden. Thanks to the Dimes From Heaven nonprofit organization, growing your own healthy and delicious vegetables can be a fun and stress-free endeavor this summer.
Founded by Michael and Linda Melnick, Dimes From Heaven endeavors to breathe new life into Simpson by rejuvenating old landmarks into usable community features. The most visible of these efforts is the old Fell School and its grounds, which now feature new Miss C softball fields and auxiliary buildings, a modern playground for local children, and a reservoir stocked with perch, bullheads, bluegills, and bass for catch-and-release fishing.
The once falling down school building has been partially demolished and is currently undergoing renovation for future community use. In the space where the school’s old “back yard” used to be are 22 raised beds that the Melnicks are offering to local gardeners who otherwise might not have the opportunity to grow their own fresh produce.
Eighteen of the beds measure 4 feet by 8 feet, while four are a generous 12 feet by 12 feet in size. All are constructed of cedar, a rot-resistant wood that is safe for vegetable gardens, and each is filled with good garden soil. For gardeners’ convenience, a hose with water pumped from the reservoir is provided on site. Gardeners must provide their own planting tools and seeds, seedlings, or plants.
Gardeners are free to grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables, but are asked to refrain from growing vines, such as pumpkins, in order to keep the walkways between the beds open. Because the gardens are located adjacent to the reservoir, only organic preparations, including fertilizers, are allowed. Gardeners are asked to keep their beds free of weeds, a practice which enables crops to flourish, helps keep the gardens looking neat, and prevents weeds from going to seed and spreading to other beds.
The community gardens are ideal for renters and apartment dwellers, people who are unable to dig and maintain their own gardens, folks who are elderly or disabled (the raised beds make accessing the plants easy), and those who have little or no prior experience with vegetable growing. To help gardeners maximize their yield, Penn State master gardener Sheryl Popkin will be on hand to meet with people and share her expertise every Tuesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. during the growing season.
Several garden plots are still available. Those interested in claiming a plot may contact Linda at (570) 222-4074 to request a plot or for more information. There is no fee to use the plot for the growing season.
The Melnicks say that they were motivated to provide the gardens for two reasons: because Linda has a personal love of gardening and because it is yet another way to be involved in the community. “I love to garden. When I lived in a townhouse in Pittsburg, I really missed it!” Linda explained, adding that she maintains a large garden at her Greenfield Twp. farm.
The gardens are also a way for the Dimes From Heaven Foundation to help recapture some of the strong sense of community that residents of Simpson enjoyed in the past, and will hopefully continue to strengthen and build upon into the future. Linda said that the people who use the gardens often get to know one another, forging new friendships as they work to maintain and harvest their vegetables throughout the summer.
Linda and Mike pay frequent visits to the gardens to ensure that everything is in good shape. Beds that need weeding will receive a red flag to remind the owner to be a good neighbor by keeping his or her bed weed-free. Helping the Melnicks keep the gardens in excellent condition are various Simpson residents, among them Jay Aileo and E.J. Prawdzik who built the raised beds, Marie Emmett who helps keep an eye on things and makes sure there is no litter around, volunteers from the Retreat at White Birch who help with lawn care and keeping the site clean, and Joe Kluck who made the signs naming the beds.
Longtime Simpson residents may consider taking a walk through the gardens not only to admire the bed owners’ hard work and thriving plants, but also to take a trip down memory lane by checking out the signs on the beds. Each bears the name of a Simpson landmark or some other theme sure to evoke feelings of nostalgia and fond memories of days gone by.
While there, take a moment to admire the reservoir that is once again filled with water and wildlife, to listen for the happy voices of children having fun on the playground, or to hear the crack of the bat and cheers of the fans as ballgames are once again played on the former American Legion field. And if you happen to see Mike or Linda Melnick as you wander the old Fell School grounds, consider telling them “thank you” for investing in the community they love in a meaningful and generous way.