The Haven’s campus provides an oasis of nourishment, healing, and hope
When the Byrne Community House and Family Shelter opened in 2005, the beautiful new building was surrounded by mounds of dirt left behind by the construction crew’s backhoes. Over the past 16 years, a group of volunteer gardeners has transformed those piles into a spectacular landscape, lush with fruit trees, raised beds with vegetables and berry bushes as well as perennial plants and flowers.
“Our goal is to educate, create beauty, and instill pride in the people who call the Haven home,” says UVM Extension Master Gardener Jane Metcalf, who leads the group with fellow Master Gardener Faith Alexandre.
“I love the informal teaching moments when a volunteer or visitor stops to ask what we’re doing or what plant that is,” adds Faith. “I like working on Saturday mornings and getting to know guests a little bit who come out to enjoy their morning coffee or talk to us about what their grandfather used to grow.”
Each part of the landscape has a role to play. The Children’s Program, for example, uses the fruits and vegetables as part of its activities. “The kids have planted and harvested potatoes, onions, carrots, scallions, and tomatoes. We’ve taught them how to make guacamole using the tomatoes and onions,” explains Children’s Program Associate Will Henne. “We also have a nice patch of seasonal raspberry bushes that the children frequent for snacks. And they pick apples from the trees in the fall that we use to bake apple crisp.” Whatever the Children’s Program doesn’t use is harvested for the Food Shelf and the Haven’s prepared meals programs. Faith points out that Haven visitors and neighbors are also welcomed to pick fruits and vegetables from the gardens in the public areas.
In addition, the Haven’s campus features several named gardens—Alex’s Way, Lizzie’s Lane, and the Caswell Memorial Garden—all of which honor former guests. and special friends of the Haven. Jane notes that in the gardens around Bev’s House, named in memory of lawyer and artist Beverly Fowle Fiertz, “the bulk of what is growing there came from Bev’s home in South Woodstock.” Tucked in the back is a small shady garden with a picnic table. In the warm weather, that’s where you’ll find Community Service Coordinator Nancy Griffin meeting with clients. “The gardens are really important to the Haven,” Nancy notes. “It honors the people who come to visit by having the outside space be so beautiful.”