Bowery Mission garden offers new help to residents

August 1, 2012 5:23:30 AM PDT
The Bowery Mission has been changing lives for more than 100 years. Men who are down on their luck can get a hot meal and a place to stay while they turn their lives around.

Now, there is new life growing at the mission, which has transformed their once off limits rooftop into a green sanctuary of blooming flowers and ripening vegetables. The new project is a way to supplement their kitchen and add an air of tranquility.

The Bowery Mission has been a port in the storm for men on the Lower East Side since 1879. The residential faith-based program currently has 80 men living there. The mission also provides meals to hundreds of needy in the neighborhood. The new rooftop garden has been a welcome addition.

"It demonstrates what we're all about, new life," the mission's James Macklin said. "And this is what this garden represents. We transform lives, and we can transform a roof."

The idea came from director of operations Matt Krivich, who wanted to find a way to use every inch of space at the mission.

"It was actually dead space," he said. "It was a place that was restricted. So if the men in the program wanted to go to the roof, they weren't necessarily allowed to come up here. So now it's a place where they're able to come up, meditate, relax and just fellowship."

The garden was just planted this spring and is already producing peppers, eggplant and squash. A variety of herbs are coming in as well. Some of the residents help tend to the garden, pruning away dead leaves and watering.

"I had no idea that I would have an opportunity to be part of a garden on a roof," resident Sinclair Chaneyfield said. "Something totally new. I have been used to doing gardening straight into the ground, so to do a project as in doing gardening on a roof was quite a different scenery."

The United Way provided a one-time grant of $30,000 to construct the garden. It's now up to the mission to keep things growing.

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