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Bellevue garden seeks support of community it serves

| Monday, April 3, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

North Hills Community Outreach's Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Garden in Bellevue has entered the Seeds of Change Grant Program and the organization needs your help.

Through April 19, people can vote at seedsofchangegrant.com. The community can vote daily by looking for “Sauro.”

The program is awarding $310,000 in total grants to 24 garden projects nationally in recognition of food, farming, nutrition, and sustainability.

A few years ago, Sirianni's family approached NCHO with land in Bellevue they wanted to donate. During the Depression, Sirianni grew vegetables and sold or donated them to the community.

“When she passed away, the family decided they wanted the vegetables to be grown to benefit the community,” said Jennifer Kissel, the NCHO director of communications. They accepted the land as a way to get volunteers involved, cleared the land and the vacant lot next to it, and use it to grow organic fruits and vegetables for the three community food pantries.

Alyssa Crawford is the garden's only full-time employee, and she coordinates 250-300 volunteers a year, most of whom are already involved in NCHO in some way, such as former donor-turned volunteer Andrea Maire.

Maire is responsible for weeding, starting seeds, planting turning over beds and harvesting.

“I like to garden and I knew this was something offered by NCHO,” Maire said. “I find it very rewarding, and over 4500 pounds of fruits and vegetables were harvested last year. It's important for people to get good nutrition.”

Crawford is the one who came across Seeds of Change and applied for the grant, highlighting how the money would be used to nourish a greener community and grow the gardening program further. NCHO is a nonprofit organization that serves local families in poverty and hardship through a variety of programs, including the garden. As such, donations from the community and grants are required to keep it going.

After voting is closed, the top 50 gardens with the most votes move on to the final judging phase.

“Bellevue community is very supportive of our garden,” Kissel said. “We're always really grateful for all of the community support we get.”

Voting publicly is a way to show support as well. Additionally, it is a way to spread the word about the garden and NCHO in general to the rest of the community.

“People aren't always able to donate or volunteer, but ... voting one time a day for three weeks is a simple, excellent way to help us get this grant and help people in need in our community get fresh, organic vegetables from our food pantry,” Kissel said.

Rebecca L. Ferraro is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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