Centerville Community Working Hard on Community Garden

AMES, Iowa – Students celebrated Global Youth Service Day in April, but the spirit continues on in Centerville where the AmeriCorps program has teamed up with the community to work on a community garden. The project began on April 15 and will continue until Sept. 11.

Frank Reznicek, Centerville, began the garden in 2010. AmeriCorps chose to finish the garden as a service-learning project for Howar Junior High students.           

“As we received information regarding the service learning grant from the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, I realized that this garden might be something that the students would be interested in working in and for,” said Charlotte Head, one of the team leaders for the Centerville AmeriCorps program. “I also felt that this would be a great opportunity for a revolving service learning project that will continue for many years.”

AmeriCorps grows community in Centerville

The Centerville AmeriCorps group received a $1,000 grant from the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. With the money, the group bought topsoil, seeds, railroad ties, tools, tile and plants.

Head said the leaders of the AmeriCorps program and the Centerville Community Garden Club have done most of the planning for the garden. The students will get more heavily involved once the groundwork has been completed and the vegetable planting begins.

The group planted the garden on May 14.

"On the day of planting, we took several AmeriCorps students to Centerville Greenhouses and Nursery Inc. and they selected their favorite vegetables,” said Riley Drake, another team leader for the Centerville AmeriCorps program. “We were able to get all of the seeds and bedding plants into the ground successfully and have had plenty of rain and sunshine. The team leaders visit the site almost daily to check on the plots and during the summer program, the students and team leaders will be harvesting the vegetables for our local Farmers' Market. All proceeds will be used to purchase seeds and bedding plants for next year's planting."

The Centerville community is encouraged to tend the garden alongside the junior high students. The railroad ties will separate the garden into plots, so all levels of gardeners can contribute to the garden.

“We hope to raise awareness for the needs in our community, teach our students skills they can use now and in the future, reinforce healthy living strategies in the community and donate vegetables to benefit the community,” said Sue Wolver, also a team leader for the Centerville AmeriCorps program.

The project was kicked off with a community-wide event on Global Youth Service Day. The end-date for the project is set for Sept. 11.

“The grant we received specifically stated that day as the ending point,” Wolver said. “We have planned a flag raising ceremony and moment of silence to honor the memory of those lost in the tragedy on 9/11.”

Growing vegetables and flowers isn’t the only goal of the Centerville AmeriCorps leaders. Head said they also wish to grow community.

National service — and 5 promises for young people

“AmeriCorps is a national service program,” said Judy McCarthy, with Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise. “The Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise program, which the Centerville program is part of, is based on the five promises to children and youth. All our programs tie into those in some way.”

The five promises guarantee to provide children with caring adults, safe places, healthy starts, effective education and opportunities to serve. McCarthy said many of the Centerville group’s projects fall under the opportunities to serve category.

Iowa State University Extension hosts the Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise program in collaboration with Iowa’s Promise and the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. These AmeriCorps members serve with youth development programs in communities across the state. For the 2010-2011 program year, 55 AmeriCorps members are working with youth at 24 sites.

McCarthy, who is ISU Extension’s director for the program, said AmeriCorps provides a wide range of experiences to match a variety of interests.Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise members are volunteering with ISU Extension county educational programs, school districts, community recreation and family centers, community foundations, youth groups and shelters, and more.

The ISU Extension has played an integral role in training Iowa AmeriCorps leaders. To learn more about the Iowa AmeriCorps program, visit