This summer, local teen volunteers tended the Bea Shacknow Memorial Garden in the fifth year of the very successful program. The vegetable and herb garden, located at the back of the Plainview Old-Bethpage Public Library is a memorial to Bea Shacknow, a beloved member of the Family Center staff. The produce grown was all donated to the food pantry at Our Lady of Mercy in Hicksville.
Young adults from the middle school and high school watered, tended, weeded, pruned and picked a wide variety of produce, all cultivated from seeds. This year’s participants were particularly dedicated and diligent in their efforts. For their time, the students received community service credits, useful to fulfill school requirements as well as for their resumes for college.
Among the crops harvested this summer were tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, eggplant, radishes, peppers and basil.
“The plants selected were those offering a high yield,” said Nancy Cronan, one of the library’s staff members facilitating the project, adding purple bush beans, fingerling eggplants, heirloom tomatoes and both Kirby and American cucumbers satisfied this feature.
This year, the library’s volunteer program was coordinated with a neighborhood food pantry. On a more local level than in the past, the Our Lady of Mercy Food Pantry serves the same community as the Plainview Old-Bethpage Public
Library. In fact, patrons of the library also donated vegetables from their own gardens to help their neighbors.
The teens worked on the garden twice a week throughout the summer. Some of the plants began growing immediately and by June the radishes were the first crop ready to be harvested. As soon as the vegetables were ripe enough to be picked, library staff brought them right over to the church.
“We are very grateful for the service of the teens who volunteered, as well as the librarians who coordinated the project, which resulted in such a large volume of fresh produce which we have been able to distribute to our families serviced by the food pantry,” said Mary Anne Scott, director of parish service at Our Lady of Mercy.
She went on to say that the fresh vegetables and herbs offered this summer, particularly the string beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and radishes were a most welcome supplement to the packaged and shelf-stable items distributed by the food pantry. In the last few years, there has been an unprecedented increase of clients served by the food pantry and it is a wonderful bonus to be able to offer those in need a healthy food option thanks to this library program.
The food pantry at Our Lady of Mercy is interfaith and serves all of Plainview; and parts of Hicksville, Bethpage and Syosset. Scott added that no other food pantry serves all of Plainview and it clearly fills a need in our community.
The Our Lady of Mercy Food Pantry is located at 500 South Oyster Bay Road in Hicksville. Food distribution is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and Wednesdays and Fridays 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The food pantry can be reached at 516-931-1306. First time clients of the food pantry will be asked to participate in an intake interview. In addition to food distribution, the pantry can help with referrals for additional help and support as needed.