Local Seventh-day Adventist church members and 21 visiting students from Fountainview Academy in Lillooet spent part of spring break building and delivering 80 garden boxes for Nuxalk residents in the Bella Coola Valley.
Referring to a list of more than 30 people and businesses that helped make the project a success, pastor Brad Dennis said contributions came in the form of financing, designing, building and delivering the boxes.
“No single person can take credit,” Brad said. “We lift up our hand to Nuxalk Nation for their casting such a grand vision.”
Dennis explained how two years ago his church had the idea to build 10 garden boxes using wood from a local mill. The boxes came with soil and fertilizer.
Church members got to work and made two different sizes – one for families and a smaller size for elders. Mentors were attached to each box who would call and check in once or twice a month to see how the gardens were growing.
“Gardening can be a challenge no matter who you are,” Brad said.
A year later, Marietta Hans, Nuxalk Nation community health representative contacted Brad to see if the church could scale up the program and make 50 to 100 boxes.
Brad and his wife DeeAnna committed, even though the church only has 20 to 25 active members.
“We said, ‘yes,’ Marietta said they would supply the wood and supplies,” DeeAnna recalled.
Still not knowing how they were going to manage the project with their small group, what happened next DeeAnna described as a “miracle.”
Brad and DeeAnna have a friend who works at Fountainview Academy.
Every year the school choir travels – often to places on the other side of the globe – and likes to do a project to help the local community.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place for 2022, however, if the students were going to travel they would have to stick closer to home.
One day the “light went on,” DeeAnna said and she realized the garden project could be realized.
She contacted their friend, asked if it wasn’t too late to organize a trip with the students to the Bella Coola Valley where they could perform, work and see the beautiful sites.
After arriving in a large coach bus, the students and chaperones started working alongside nine local youth and church members on Thursday, March 17.
In advance of the students arriving, the church organized a work bee on Sunday, March 13.
Totem Mill delivered three loads of wood, purchased by the Nuxalk Nation, and donated one of the loads.
Seventeen people cut the lumber, fuelled with food cooked by six volunteers.
Rick Ratcliff designed and built jigs to put the garden boxes together and instructed youth on how to assemble them.
On the first day the students made 48 boxes. They were eight feet long, 32 inches wide and 32 inches high. By Sunday, March 20, they completed the project with 71 standard boxes and nine 32×32 inch ones.
Chris Matthews, a church member and business owner, donated the entire day Tuesday delivering the garden boxes using his truck and trailer, Brad said.
“The students went around and helped deliver them and everyone was so grateful and kind. They were giving the students local medicine – an ointment made with devil’s club and stinging nettle – and smoke salmon and canned salmon.”
Additionally Brad acknowledged Hans who paid for the lumber and its delivery, Kirsten Milton, Nuxalk Health Director who paid for lumber, screws, soil, fertilizer and chicken wire, Totem Mill and staff Gary Brown and Ian Pootlass, Liz Howard for donating seeds and Steve Dishkin at School District 49 for donating the use of showers for the Fountainview students.
He also thanked Kathy Moore for donating gardening booklets for garden box recipients, Joy Mackay who will be donating the manure, Dale McCreery who helped finalize the design of the garden boxes and cut and sorted wood with church volunteers and Theresa Brook, education administrator at Nuxalk Acwsalcmalslayc Academy of Learning for gifts of blankets, water bottles and a notebook with a pen for the Fountainview students.
While in the community, the students from the Fountainview Academy also performed music.
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