by Lisa Tome
That prior work experience came in handy for Perryville Mayor Jim Eberhardt, who is retired from the Army Corps of Engineers.
When helping with the Perryville Police Department Outreach community garden, the mayor fashioned an instant bridge using old boards. The bridge then helped move a wheelbarrow filled with soil across a swale.
It's a new season and location for the garden which has been a mainstay in the town for four years. "We're downsizing and relocating. We want to involve the community and make them aware of the benefits of growing a garden and working together for a shared goal," said Jesse Lilly, director of the Outreach Program. The relocation is due to the planned construction of the new police department building on Otsego Street.
Lilly said that those who help with the garden, can share in what's grown. One of the main uses for the harvest is the weekly outreach dinners. During those meals, outreach members learn etiquette and social skills.
Items being grown this year include strawberries, tomatoes, string beans, watermelon, bell peppers, chocolate mint, eggplant, onions, sweet basil, zucchini, cucumbers, oregano, and more.
Lilly's daughter, eighth grader Aubri Lilly, also has a leading role in the garden this year. For a Perryville Middle School project, Lilly is working to promote the garden and get students involved in the planting and maintenance. She has also created a blog where she will provide garden updates. "I had to learn a lot about gardens. I had to research what plants go in next to each other," said Aubri Lilly.
The garden got a later start this year, due to weather. The planting was postponed twice due to rain.
Three generations of the Lilly family were involved with the initial planting. Jesse's mother, and Aubri's grandmother, Darlene Lilly, was helping with the planting. "I'm a helper. I have some gardening experience. I grew up with a garden and I like to be involved with the youth. I think it's important for kids to have longterm goals not just instant gratification," she said.
Shaleem Peary is a former member of Peryville Outreach. Peary is now home from college for the summer and helped assemble some of the frames for the new raised beds. "I'm back for the summer and I wanted to help out," said Peary.
Mayor Eberhardt said the garden is an important project. "Having the kids involved with this shows them that it's hard work and fruits and vegetables are the fruits of our labor, " said Eberhardt. He also said teaching children about eating healthy is another benefit.