GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Sailors from the Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE) Chaplain's Office joined local volunteers and gardeners in harvesting, mulching and composting at the Common Good Gardens, Aug. 20.
Informally known as "the soup kitchen garden," because of its contributions to the needy, the garden is located behind Grace Episcopal Church off Main Street, in Old Saybrook, Conn.
"This garden is a win-win for everybody involved," said Clair Matthews, president, Common Good Gardens. "The Church fulfills its mission to provide for the needy; the gardeners like working here because they all learn from each other; and, the volunteers and donors get to do something for the community."
The garden was started in 2002 by gardeners who wanted to use their knowledge to benefit others, according to Matthews.
"The garden is a collaboration of people with different talents and interests, and the thing that unifies us is our desire to help our neighbors in need," Matthews said.
In addition to the produce grown directly in the garden, Common Good Gardens picks up produce from local farm stands, adding it to the garden's harvest, The garden is thus able to provide nutritious, locally grown produce to five local food pantries in Old Saybrook, Westbrook, Clinton, Old Lyme, and East Lyme, which feed some 500 families per week.
To Matthews, the volunteers who work in the garden, like those from SUBASE, are the backbone of its success.
The base's Chaplains Office is continuing ongoing Navy community service efforts at the garden initiated by the Naval Submarine School's (SUBSCOL) Chaplain's Office.
"We've been working in the garden for six weeks," said Lt. Robert Price, SUBASE Chaplain. "And SUBSCOL regularly sends out volunteers to the site as well."
SUBSCOL Sailors installed a high gate to keep hungry deer from eating the produce.
Deer and other animals are drawn to the garden because its produce is highly nutritious, thanks to the work and research of a local volunteer.
Mark Lenhart, a former submariner who served aboard USS Spikefish (SS 404) and USS Bang (SS 385), acts as the garden's compost scientist.
The Common Good Gardens are unique in that they make their own compost instead of using fertilizers.
"Decomposition of organic matter is always a learning process," said Lenhart. "The compost we use is very nutritious. We use coffee grounds donated from local coffee shops."
Every Tuesday, Sailors from SUBASE's Chaplain's Office help to distribute the compost and mulch.
"The Navy brings a lot of youth and good spirit to the garden," added Lenhart. "We could not ask for a better workforce."
Volunteers are encouraged to help with harvesting, mulching and composting on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, and Thursday afternoons.
For more information about volunteering at the Common Good Gardens, call the SUBASE Chaplain's Office at (860)-694-3232.
For more news from Naval Submarine Base New London, visit www.navy.mil/local/subasenlon/.