Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 50
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
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A Community Garden for Harriet Bryan House and Elm Court Promises to Engage Everyone

Ellen Gilbert

Elm Court Social Worker Rhona Porter wasn’t kidding when she said that the foundations for a “community garden” would be built on a plot of land adjacent to the affordable housing residence and its neighbor, Harriet Bryan House, on Saturday.

Catalyst Mike Maloney, his son Kyle, Dave Reed, and Mapleton Nursery employees, along with Boy Scouts from troop 43, were among the people braving the freezing morning air to clean up the area, install planters, and fill in top soil. Administrators, board members, and residents of both buildings made sure that workers were supplied with enough hot beverages and snacks to keep them going. “It’s an absolutely beautiful story of collaboration,” enthused Ms. Porter.

A highlight of the garden will be its raised beds. “I watched my father and other residents sitting in wheelchairs and not doing much,” said Mr. Maloney, a former landscaper for Elm Court. The raised beds will allow handicapped people to participate in tending the garden.

The project had been on Mr. Maloney’s mind for several years. “I did quite a bit of research for it,” he said. “It’s all designed with a person in a wheelchair in mind.”

“It’s really about giving back to the less fortunate, and improving the quality of life for the residents,” Mr. Maloney commented.

Boy Scout troop 43 member Mark Reed was happy to be part of the project. “It really helps these people,” he said. “They really deserve it, and I’m proud to be doing this.”

“I’m an avid gardener myself,” said Princeton Community Housing board member John Borden, watching the hive of activity. “If there’s a spot left over, I’m going to plant some tomato plants.”

Residents of Elm Court and Harriet Bryan House can indeed look forward to having tomatoes and lots of vegetables from the garden. Plans include planting zucchini and pumpkins in an area that slopes downward, along with blueberry bushes. Come springtime, there will be seating for gardeners and other visitors

Raritan Valley Community College student Kyle Maloney was on hand to perform community service and to see the coming to fruition of the plans that he helped devise with his father last spring.

“It’s a far cry from when we came out here last year,” said Elm Court Property Manager Kerri Philhower, observing the improvements underway.

The project has special resonance for Harriet Bryan House social worker Libby Ranney, who plans to retire at the end of the year. “It’s time for someone else to take over,” said Ms. Ranney, who also served as manager of Elm Court for 22 years.

“I’m coming to the end of my tenure with very mixed feelings,” said said wistfully. “It’s certainly been part of my life. I could wax very eloquent about this place. It’s very dear to my heart.”

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