Garden project breaks ground; AVID group plants tree in memory of teacher.
By SCOTT AUST
As part of the groundbreaking ceremony for a Big Brothers Big Sisters Children's Garden and Community Garden at East Garden Village on Saturday, around 30 volunteers and members of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) group helped plant a tree in memory of Garden City High School social studies teacher Renee Dawson, who died Jan. 27 of cancer.
Karen Dawson, Renee Dawson's mother, was moved by the gesture.
"I think it's pretty cool. It's awesome that these kids wanted to do this. I guess it shows that these kids really loved her," Dawson said.
Renee Dawson taught school for more than 20 years in North Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, including 10 years in Garden City.
Shelli Lalicker, a friend of Renee's and also a science teacher, said there were three things Dawson cared about — her students, her cats and her plants.
"That pretty well sums it up. If she could be with her students, her cats and plants, she was pretty happy," Lalicker said.
"And books. She loved books," Karen Dawson said.
Dawson said her daughter had a large number of books, "a complete library," around 50 boxes of books that will be going on the auction block.
"She still had the first books we bought her in Kindergarten," Karen Dawson said.
Lalicker said Dawson's taste in books ran from history and historical novels to science fiction and fantasy.
"We shared a lot of books," Lalicker said.
Renee also enjoyed flowers and gardens, especially lavender and sage, her favorite flower, and was involved in the AVID organization, her mother said.
Lalicker said AVID is aimed at students who may not have a college background in their family, first generation college students, and attempts to teach them skills necessary to succeed in getting to college.
"It's a good program that really builds kids up," she said.
Det. Clint Brock of the Garden City Police Department said during the ceremony that AVID members over the past year have surpassed 9,000 hours of community service, including picking up more than 300 tons of trash and going through about 100 gallons of paint to paint over graffiti, and by serving as bell ringers for the Salvation Army during the holidays.
"You guys have done a fantastic job," Brock said. "You're going to be successful wherever you go because of the things you learned here. We're now helping Big Brothers Big Sisters, and you're providing a positive role model to these little kids coming up."
Leeana Guerrero, a volunteer who started the local Neighborhood Improvement Project group several years ago, said the community garden is designed to be more easily accessed than one behind J.C. Penney's. Several groups were involved in working on the community garden, she said, including AVID, Big Brothers Big Sisters, NIP, the local Farm Bureau and the Salvation Army.
"We tried to get as many organizations involved as we can. I brought some of the college football team. We have members of the community," Guerrero said.
More than 250 to 300 volunteers were expected during the day on Saturday. Guerrero said 200 plots are available on about two acres of land.
People interested in one of the personal garden plots can contact BBBS at 275-2424 for more information. Guerrero said NIP's goal is to perform at least 25 projects each year, which have included cleaning up areas like Talley Trail and East Garden Village. The community garden is their biggest project so far.
Anyone who has a particular eyesore they would like to see taken care of should contact Guerrero at (620) 640-4833, or contact Brock at 640-1996, and they will organize a cleanup plan.
"We want to make the community nice, and have it to where more people will want to come live here," Guerrero said.
Land for the community garden was donated by East Garden Village owner Robert Martin. The project also received funding through 21st Century Community Learning Center grant funds, funds from the city of Garden City, Walmart, True Value, Scheopner's Water Conditioning, The Watering Hole, Lee Richardson Zoo, Wharton's for Every Bloomin' Thing, Home Depot, Sam's Club, and Steve O'Brate.