Orchard Dedication Invites Community to Partner in Further Revitalization

By Brett Hetherington*

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As spring gave way to summer organizers dedicated the Brookdale Orchard memorial garden in Cleveland, welcoming guests and sponsoring families who traveled from as far away as Texas, Nebraska, and California. Each individual plot in the memorial garden will include a fruit tree, rose bush, lilies and other plants, and a handmade bench painted in the Ndebele style to honor the Ndebele people of Africa.

Several individuals spent time sharing warm wishes and congratulations to the community and to Mittie Jordan, director of the Rockefeller Park Community Restoration & Development Association, from whom the vision for Brookdale Orchard sprang forth. The ceremony opened with a gentleman from Senegal, Africa leading music with his djembe (African drum) and it closed with a sharing of prayers and the reading of the names of all those who were being memorialized in the garden.

Designed to provide nutrients to a community in a food desert, the garden also serves to educate residents about the past. A highlight of the dedication ceremony was the Willoughby Friends Church Women’s Quilting Guild presenting Jordan with a hand-stitched quilt featuring symbols used on the Underground Railroad.

“I was so moved by the quilt patterns and the stories behind the quilt patterns,” shared Christy Frangos, “Every lady who took one of these patterns prayed. They prayed for hope, they prayed for peace, they prayed for healing in our communities. And Mittie, you’re the inspiration for that, because you took what God was putting in your heart and said, ‘I want this in my community, and I want to educate young people.’”

The memorial garden is not the final step in the vision. There are teaching gardens planned to allow Jordan and others to partner with local schools to educate students. This summer marks the first summer program for students in grades three through 12. Participants will learn about African American culture and history, community and civic engagement, environment and sustainability, gardening, and cultural arts education. High school students in the class will also build a windmill.

Linda Higbee of St. Matthew United Methodist Church (North Coast District) paraphrased the old question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” and applied it to the neighborhood in which Brookdale Orchard is located.

“We have heard the question, and the answer is, ‘yes,’” said Higbee. “All that is needed – and we heard the call – is a vision, willing hands, and feet to make it happen. You all are here, and you have answered that call whether you know it or not.”

View and download the video of the Brookdale Orchard dedication.

The Conference Communications team would like to share other stories that highlight ways that each of us is answering the call of Bishop Tracy S. Malone to reach out to our communities in creative ways. Please e-mail your ministry story to EOC Executive Director of Communications Rick Wolcott at wolcott@eocumc.com.

* Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.