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Community garden growing in Ahwatukee

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Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2012 12:00 pm

Behind the tennis courts and park at Ahwatukee Board of Management lay two large holes. They may look simple, but soon those holes are going to be used to bring people together and educate them through an Ahwatukee Community Garden.

Star Heilman said she approached Connecting to Serve’s Executive Director Sheila Coonen at a community service kick-off event months ago about starting the community garden. There was interest in the idea, but no one to lead it.

“Originally I was just going to plan it and give them the plan, which I did, but I came back and said well, they need a little more help than that,” Heilman said. “We started working on it and advertised it at the last community kick-off event to see how much interest we could get in that. I actually had 30 people sign up that day, which was a lot.”

As Heilman and other volunteers moved forward with plans, Ahwatukee Board of Management (ABM) offered some space. The group plans to start with just two garden beds at ABM and eventually expand. There’s room for two more garden beds at ABM and Heilman said down the road they hope to build plots in more locations across Ahwatukee that community members could buy and use to plant their own gardens.

“When you start gardens they kind of take off and grow, and take on their own life,” Heilman said. “I think once we get the first two beds in and we have our first successful planting season then we’ll expand.”

Heilman said she’s been talking with many groups across the community trying to get a feel for what kind of volunteers and interest the garden will attract. There’s interest in making the garden a space to educate children or those who want to start their own gardens but don’t know how to plant in Arizona.

“A lot of people want garden plots, but what I get from a lot of people here is they don’t know how to garden in Arizona,” Heilman said. “That’s one of the things we really want to do is teach. We have several people who are master gardeners so we’re going to take advantage of that program for the education side. That way we can get people able to garden in their own yards as well.”

Heilman said a majority of the produce grown in the garden will go to the Bread of Life Food Pantry, but the hope is that there will be enough to share with those who’ve had a hand in growing it as well.

For now the group is gathering materials to build up the garden beds. Heilman said she is working on approaching local businesses who might be interested in sponsoring the beds. Citrus for Kids, a local nonprofit that hires teens to pick unwanted citrus that can be sold to earn money, is acting as the garden’s nonprofit so all donations to the garden are tax deductible.

To learn more about the garden or how to volunteer, send an email to

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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