ANDERSON — Janet Lawson wore a pair of bright pink garden gloves. Her husband, Mickey, sported a fishing hat whimsically festooned with lost bits of old jewelry that’s he’s found here and there. One of the rhinestone-covered earrings glinted in the sunlight as Mickey poured gas into a rototiller.
It was planting time out in the garden at New Horizons United Methodist Church in Anderson.
For the Lawsons and other volunteers at the church, gardening is a joyful ministry. Members of the congregation lovingly tend a plot of about 60 by 40 feet located behind the church on its 12-acre grounds at 611 E. 53rd St.
They work almost year round to start seeds, turn soil, plant, hoe, weed, and reap. In the end, everything they grow is given away to help others in need.
“The food that’s been raised there doesn’t go to us,” said Pastor John Hackney. “It’s totally for outreach.”
Once the produce is ready for harvest, it is picked and promptly delivered wherever it can be used. Often that’s across the street to the food pantry at East Lynn Christian Church. It might be to Stepping Stones, The Christian Center, Operation Love, or the Harter House.
“I just walk up to the door and say, ‘Here,’” said Janet’s husband, Mickey. Janet and Mickey head up the garden operation, a project to which they’re deeply committed.
“I have a passion to help feed people,” said Janet simply. She said that food pantries used to supply a lot of canned food, and have shifted to supply more fresh. “We want to make it more frequent, make it more abundant.” She puts her talents to work accomplishing that. It’s a talent that has grown over time.
“When Janet and I first got married she could kill a plastic plant,” said Mickey. Now, he said, she has a green thumb, and can make anything grow. He points to the two-wheeled seeder. “That’s her favorite toy.”
Tuesday mornings and at other times throughout the summer, volunteers show up to help.
“We have a lot of people ready to come out and hoe and pick beans,” said Janet.
Last week, the Lawsons were joined by other volunteers to get some of the plants they’ve grown from seed into the ground. That included cabbage, kale, okra and tomatoes.The Lawsons' son, Jon, along with David and Linda Inlow, and Cheryl Green with her dog, Sadie, were among the helpers that day. “Whenever her tail starts wagging, we know the spirit’s among us,” quipped Mickey about little Sadie.The garden came about three years ago as an outgrowth of the farmers market that New Horizons has hosted in its parking lot for about seven years. Karen Powell, pastor at the time at New Horizons, proposed the idea.
“We didn’t know where to start,” said Janet.
Nevertheless, it didn’t take long to get into gear. Brian Bays plowed up the plot for the gardeners that first year.
Getting water to the big garden was a big job. Until this season, the gardeners transported water to the garden by truck.
“That was a labor of love, emphasis on labor,” said Hackney. Now, a water line has been run. It will not only make watering the garden a lot easier, it will someday serve a community pavilion that is planned for the site.
The band of gardeners started out with one rototiller; now, thanks to donations, they have three. Two of them were turning the ground last week as David Inlow and Mickey manned the machines ahead of other volunteers doing the planting.
In addition to growing food for those in need, the gardening ministry has a pumpkin patch for the church’s child care. This year, they are growing a sensory garden for the children as well, along with some cherry tomatoes, and willow trees for a carefully planned outdoor playground.
“It’s a very nature-minded congregation,” observed Hackney. The pastor has shepherded the church for the last two years, alongside his congregation at Cross Roads UMC in north Anderson, with the help of campus pastor Gina Kirkland. In July, Hackney steps back to Cross Roads, and Kirkland takes on the pastoring at New Horizons, which usually seats about 100 congregants each Sunday for services.
“All the way around we’re blessed, so we want to be a blessing to other people,” said Janet.
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Creamed Kale 1¾ lbs. kale ¼ c. butter 1 onion, chopped 4 Tbsp. flour 1½ cups milk 1/3 cup Gruyere cheese Pinch of crushed red pepper Dash of nutmeg Cook 1¾ lb. kale in boiling water 5 minutes; drain. Cut into ribbons. In a skillet melt ¼ cup butter over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion and cook until tender. Sprinkle with 4 Tbsp flour; stir for 1 minute. Stir in 1½ cups milk; simmer until thickened. Stir in 1/3 cup Gruyere cheese, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Fold in kale and season to taste.