DJ and team of volunteers pour in to tend local garden

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta


Joni Woodring (front left) of Huron Township, heard about Mojo’s Time Team on his radio show. She works side by side with her friend Debbie Anteau of Riverview and her son, Alex Woodring (front right), a 9-year-old fourth-grader at Brown Elementary School in Huron Township.

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta


Donovan Johnson, a 13-year-old from Garden City, planted zucchini and radishes and dug posts to support an above ground sprinkling system. Many of the plants and much of the materials have been donated.

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – When wet weather turned a Westland community garden into a duck pond, a platoon of volunteers and loyal listeners headed for drier ground the morning of May 15.

Disc jockey Mojo in the Morning from WKQI-FM 95.5, his Time Team and his morning crew made landfall in Allen Park, where the DTE Energy Garden at the Jupiter Station on Goddard east of I-75 became the beneficiary of their time and talent.

Marc Zupmore, DTE Energy Gardens project manager, was amazed and pleased by the sheer number of volunteers who turned out to help.

“It’s the biggest crowd I’ve had to manage, and it’s just one of those overwhelming happy feelings,” he said. “I hope I didn’t disappoint them by not keeping them busy all of the time.”

The Volunteer Services Department for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan partnered with Clear Channel Radio, Channel 95.5 and the Mojo in the Morning Show to create Time Team Detroit, which is Mojo’s brainchild to increase volunteerism in southeastern Michigan.

United Way associate Doris Hendricks coordinates two projects a month. She connected with the DTE Energy Garden in Allen Park through the Gleaners Community Food Bank Web site.

“Within two and a half weeks we had this project coordinated and ready to rock,” Hendricks said.

Over 50 new volunteers showed up, and a lot of the regular volunteers familiar with the garden and its needs – unofficial site coordinators – came to supervise.

“That makes a difference,” Zupmore said. “It’s nice when we have that type of group support. It’s not just me anymore. It’s the community.”

The large contingent of volunteers helped them go from 40 percent to 85 percent of the garden being planted. They put in half the tomatoes and stakes; fall and summer squash; and okra, beet and radish seeds. They also put in onions, red peppers, green peppers, brussel sprouts, collards and cabbage.

“It’s just an overwhelming feeling how much got done today,” Zupmore said.

He was very happy with the large amount of weeding that took place that day, along with staking and putting up trellis fencing for the peas.

After going through parts of the garden where gaps existed, volunteers replanted peas where plants were missing.
“It’s taking it to that next level of quality,” Zupmore said. “We’re going to be able to provide so much more, as long as the weather keeps up now and we get the support through the season.”

This summer volunteers will try something new for the garden: setting up an above-ground sprinkler system with a
layout similar to those used for an underground sprinkler system. They are putting it together with donated hoses and repurposed cross arms from the tops of utility poles.

“When they’ve done pole-top maintenance and they’ve determined the cross arm is no longer fit to be used to hold up our electrical system, this way we can give it a little longer life through the garden project, and it’s avoiding a cost for us and Gleaners.

“This will enable volunteers to come over early in the morning – from about 5 to 7 a.m., when it’s the coolest part of the day, and get maximum water into the ground. This will also allow the volunteers to be as resource efficient as possible while watering the garden, something they were not able to do last summer. We try to help as many people as we can.”

The volunteers support Detroit-based Gleaners, which in turn supports the Fish and Loaves Community Food Pantry in Taylor.

“This garden provides the fresh vegetables for Gleaners, which is one of the United Way’s partners, and basic needs such as food are one of United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s primary focus areas for our works,” Hendricks said. “Gleaners partners with Fish and Loaves for the Family Choice Pantry, so that people who can’t normally afford such great things can go in and individually chose what they want instead of just having preboxed meals.”

The city of Allen Park brought over two trucks full of wood chips a few days prior to the May 15 focused volunteer effort.

An Ohio sales representative from Alabama-based Bonnie Plants who heard about the community garden on Mojo’s show donated many flats of tomatoes – about 1,500 seedlings, “from heirlooms to hybrids.”

“The volunteers came out today and planted a lot of the seedlings, and we planted seeds,” Hendricks said. “It was just a great day, a family-friendly event to encourage kids to start volunteering.”

Some volunteers lived nearby and didn’t even know the garden existed.

People interested in learning more about Time Team Detroit can go to www.timeteamdetroit.com. The interactive Web site helps people connect with volunteer activities.

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