Community Garden opens door for teens

Garden president tells police chief he’s willing to let 5 charged in vandalism do community service in the garden

Don Converse, president of the Dunwoody Community Garden, has opened a door that would allow the five teens arrested and charged with vandalizing the Brook Run Park garden to perform community service work in the garden. 

Converse took that step last week when Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan called him and asked him to come to the station. When Converse met with Grogan, the chief told him that the police had identified the suspected vandals who damaged the garden in the overnight hours of March 30-31 as five teenage juveniles. Four are from Dunwoody and one is from Roswell, police say.

Chief Grogan asked him if the community garden would be willing to let the teens do community service time working at the garden, Converse said. Converse’s answer was yes.

Whether that will happen is unclear.

Because of their ages, Converse said the teens are now in the juvenile justice system. They have been released into the custody of their parents.

Converse said it is his understanding that since the juvenile court system is a county function, the Dunwoody police and the city are basically out of the picture. Chief Grogan believes that his department will only be contacted if the juvenile court requests additional information, Converse added.

The Dunwoody Community Garden could conceivably be contacted for information and could be asked if it would provide the community service opportunity, Converse continued. That will be up to the legal system to decide.

Because minors who break the law cannot be publicly identified, Converse believes it is possible that if the justice system determines the teens must provide community service time that this time would be served somewhere other than Dunwoody. But if they are allowed to do community service in the garden at Brook Run Park, Converse said he told Chief Grogan he would particularly like for them to work with the Food Pantry Team.

The garden donates 20 percent of its growing space to charity, which is overseen by the Food Pantry volunteers. Much of the produce that was destroyed in the vandalism was destined for families with children in need.

"I just want to reiterate that we are not viewing this as anything more than a dumb stunt by teens who did not think of the consequences when they did it,” Converse said in response to an email asking his reaction to the arrests. “We would expect some sort of restitution to those who had anything damaged or destroyed, but we don't want to see their futures jeopardized by labeling them as criminals, nor do we want to see a public embarrassment to the parents.”

Converse said Chief Grogan told him that the tip that led to the arrests will result in the reward of $1,500 being paid. The chief also said that the reward would not be paid until the case is adjudicated, Converse added.

The garden has put up $500 of the $1,500 reward. The city matched that and former County Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer Liane Levetan, for whom the park is named, added another $500.


In other gardening news


Wine bottle project: This is the last week to make a donation to receive a wine bottle vase or planter painted by local artists. The deadline to make a donation is Thursday, April 26 at 5 p.m. To make a donation, go here. The link will take you to the blog post, which then takes you to an online donation site. As of Saturday morning, the project had generated $545 in donations, which will be used to support the currently unfunded food pantry garden at Saint Patrick’s Episcopal Church on North Peachtree Road. Everyone who makes a donation of any amount will be entered into a drawing to win a special "Peace" bottle garden.  The bottle was painted by the six-year-old daughter of local artist Steve Penley, who has painted and donated several bottles to the project.

Nicholas Jansen will begin building a pergola in the greenhouse area in Brook Run Park this weekend. He is building the pergola as a service project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. The pergola will serve as a place for garden visitors to take a shady rest. It should be an especially welcome respite for gardeners working in the raised beds in the greenhouse complex. These beds were built by Michael Henley, a Life Scout in Troop 494 sponsored by Dunwoody Baptist Church, as his service project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

Will Zeigler, a scout from the troop at All Saints, is working on another project to enhance the greenhouse area. Zeigler is building a picket fence for the Pollinator Garden and is also constructing a pervious pathway between the greenhouse and retaining wall to allow access for mobility-challenged individuals to work at the beds that will go on the wall. This is a joint project to assist the Dunwoody Community Garden and the Dunwoody Garden Club. Zeigler will help raise funds for the project by selling cold drinks at the Arts Festival. 

The Community Garden annual plant sale ended Sunday. “Sales have been wonderful,” said Diana Wood, who organized and managed the sale. Plants that do not sell will be offered to the Community Garden Food Pantry Team or offered for sale at either the Dunwoody Green Market, the Sandy Springs market or both.

Chesnut Elementary will put the $2,300 grant it won from Georgia Organics to good use with a simulated farmer’s market and chef demo during Field Day on May 11.

The goal, according to parent volunteer Angela Renals, is to give the children a taste of what it's like to shop at a farmers market while letting the kids see for themselves that seasonal, locally grown foods are nutritious and delicious.

Organic farmer Dave Bentoski from D&A Farms will supply produce as toppings on freshly baked pizzas from S&J's Woodfired Pizza. Bentoski will also provide enough produce for each student to take some home. In addition, he’ll give the students the pizza recipe so they and their parents can duplicate it.

As part of the learning experience, students from Chesnut Changers, the school’s Ecology Club, will help work the farm stand and teach classmates about the value of eating local and whole foods when their class visits.

The grant that Georgia Organics awarded Chesnut is funded by a contract with the DeKalb County Board of Health “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” Obesity Initiative. This program seeks to improve health of communities by implementing evidence-based intervention strategies to prevent obesity.






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