Loveland volunteer revitalizes Community Kitchen community garden through local partnerships – Loveland Reporter-Herald

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A local resident, with the help of several other people, recently made it her mission to revitalize an old community garden to brighten the lives of those in need.

Danielle Hastings, a Loveland resident and community kitchen volunteer through the Loveland Town Center Lions, said that looking at the community kitchen garden, which had fallen by the wayside over the years, she wanted to brighten up Loveland by revitalizing and reactivating it.

Hastings said she finds this project of great importance to the community at a difficult time, particularly at the community kitchen following the death of Santino Marroquin, who was found dead in the kitchen’s parking lot in early June. His death, later released by the Larimer County Coroner’s Office, was ruled a homicide, although no specific cause of death was released.

“I really wanted to do something to bring the community together again,” she said, later adding, “the world is a little wacky right now, so we have to be careful of each other.”

But the revitalization of the community garden was not done by Hastings alone, as others have come together to do so.

Uncle Benny’s Building Supplies donated the wood to build the garden along the west side of the kitchen.

Benny Aste, owner and manager of Uncle Benny’s, was present in the kitchen Thursday when a truckload of western red cedar was delivered, cut and placed alongside the small community garden outside the kitchen.

He said when they could, the company loved donating wood for projects like this, describing donating materials as “an easy answer”.

He said this program, which he described as having many layers of importance, is something he was happy to help with.

“It’s a great cause,” he said. “I would not say no.”

LOVELAND, CO – APRIL 27, 2022: Volunteer Nate Gerstenecker, far right, Jas Churillo, center, and Phillip Davidson, center right, work to build a new community garden outside the community kitchen on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 as Danielle Hastings, left, chats with Benny Aste with Uncle Benny’s Building Supplies. Hastings led the garden project and Uncle Benny donated all the wood to build it. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

“It’s really been a collaborative community effort and I think it’s just beautiful,” Hastings said.

As the garden is completed, kitchen members are excited to see what it brings to the Loveland community.

Jason Morgan, the new executive director of the community kitchen, said that although there was a volunteer in the kitchen tending to the garden, he eventually fell behind in maintenance and use. However, he’s excited to see it revitalized and hopefully stay in use for longer.

He described the new garden as nothing less than a boon to residents who can come and grab fresh produce straight from the vine. Hastings said the food will be planted by community members interested in growing food and will be open for people to grab and take the produce whenever they want.

“For the community, having access to fresh produce is indescribable,” Morgan said.

Hastings, who finds her own peace in gardening, hopes this community garden can be a place where people can come to sit and reflect while enjoying fresh food.

“Knowing that people are struggling with housing and food insecurity and all the other things going on right now, it seemed like a nice way to show that we care and want to support each other. each other and we are there for each other,” she said.

Hastings said she hoped to hold a garden blessing ceremony at 10 a.m. on May 21.

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