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Perrysburg group

Growing 2 Give feeds homeless, nourishes gardeners


Volunteers Kirk Rubin, of Toledo, left, and Maria Viles, of Perrysburg bring 50 pounds of produce from Giving 2 Grow to the Cherry Street Mission.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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Five years ago, two neighbors who loved to garden wanted to make a difference through their passion.

Their idea turned non-profit organization made a difference on Friday, as it does week after week with a delivery to Cherry Street Mission full of fruits and vegetables.  

Areka Foster and Maria Viles, neighbors, started Growing 2 Give in 2009 when they used some of Ms. Foster's family land off of Bates Road in Perrysburg Township. The less than one acre of land previously not farmed is now a garden with raised beds and a watering system.

The neighbors grow celery, green beans, watermelon, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, tomatoes, squash, peppers, cantaloupe, cabbage, egg plants, and other produce. The neighbors and other volunteers seed the garden, harvest, and deliver the produce once or twice a week to Cherry Street Mission.

"It's real tough to say how much we deliver a week," Ms. Foster said. "Sometimes it is 25 pounds, sometimes it is 200."

The mission behind Growing 2 Give is to garden and do what the participants love to do to help others. The goal is to try to feed people in the area that are at need. That is why recently the group asked all those residents that grow in their home gardens more than they can eat to to donate it to Growing 2 Give, which in turn will  deliver the food to the Cherry Street Mission.

Cherry Street Mission serves the poor and homeless in downtown Toledo. Growing 2 Give has sent produce to Perrysburg Christians United food bank and others that help the less fortunate. but he nonprofit has a connection with Cherry Street Mission. A cook from the mission has talked to the gardening volunteers about how the mission uses the donated produce and about how much it means, in turn motivating the volunteers.

"The cook said kids there didn't know what [the vegetables] we gave were," Ms. Viles said about children never getting a chance to eat fresh produce. 

Ms. Foster said they had to update their kitchen to cook the fresh produce.

Recently, Leadership Toledo helped the nonprofit with a Web site and other organizational matters.  The nonprofit has annual budget of about $2,000 for seeds, tools, and maintaining the garden's fence. A grant from the Perrysburg Garden Club has helped the group, which is looking for additional grants and funding opportunities to help.

Their donation wish-list is long, full of gardening tools, mulch, soil, and a work bench.

More volunteers are always needed; the group typically has two or three volunteers a week. The two founders of the organization said that, while it takes a lot more time in the spring and fall, the volunteers usually are needed for about five to 10 hours a week for them to harvest, seed, and deliver.

For information on the organization, visit its Web site at

Contact Matt Thompson at:, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.

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