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Volunteers help Jubilee Garden grow

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 1:46 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Stephanie Cervi, a mission volunteer from North Carolina, picks a ripe raspberry while weeding the Community Jubilee Garden in Clairton.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Bailie Wilson and Monica Crawford, mission volunteers from North Carolina, walk between rows of corn in the Community Jubilee Garden in Clairton.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Volunteers Meredith Wynn and Breanna Alligood, on a mission trip from North Carolina, pull weeds in the Community Jubilee Garden along St. Clair Avenue in Clairton.

In its second year, the Community Jubilee Garden in Clairton remains a point of interest both within and outside of the community.

Located near the intersection of Miller and St. Clair avenues in the heart of the city, the garden has a regular core of about 16 volunteers who tend individual and shared lots within the property.

This week, a group of volunteers from a Greenville, N.C., church group visited the garden to pull weeds and participate in other maintenance.

Members of the Life Teen program from St. Peter Catholic Church make annual trips to the Pittsburgh region to volunteer at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and various other charitable causes.

Hosted by St. Paul of the Cross Monastery on the South Side, the group had 121 volunteers this year. Five of them came to the Clairton garden.

“I think you can bring a community together around a garden,” said Stephanie Cervi, 18, one of the volunteers from the Greenville group. In her fifth summer of volunteering, Cervi said she's worked in other community-style gardens but Clairton's was the first in such an urbanized setting.

Allegheny Grows — which has provided support in the form of materials, land preparation assistance and instruction for the Clairton garden and others in the region — and its partner organization Grow Pittsburgh, is focused on teaching and promoting urban gardening.

Jessica McNally of Allegheny Grows said she's seen improvements at the Clairton garden.

“We did a lot better at growing everything this year,” McNally said.

She attributed the greater productivity to a number of things. Gardeners have easier access to water because of a line that was installed in the middle of last year's growing season. McNally said participants are more knowledgeable about gardening this year, too.

Gardening instruction is a component of the Allegheny Grows program. Communities must demonstrate a high level of need and show support for community gardening in order to qualify for the county program. Once selected, they receive two years of gardening support through education, materials and equipment and assistance with obtaining land for gardening.

The goal is for communities to continue sustainable gardens after the program period ends.

Clairton Councilman Rich Ford, who has been a big promoter of the community garden through the city's Unity Group, said he believes the Clairton garden will remain viable in future years.

“We've got a couple of really dedicated people,” he said.

He thinks more people will come to the community garden if they know it is there and open to the public, and he hopes to get more young people involved.

A number of improvements are yet to be made to the lot. There are plans to connect rain barrels to a toolshed constructed on the property last year. An embankment facing St. Clair Avenue is scheduled to have perennial flowers planted on it to prevent erosion and make it more attractive.

In addition to vegetables, garden visitors may notice bushes and trees that bear figs, currants, pears and hazelnuts. A section of ever-bearing strawberry plants is popular with children who visit the garden.

For more information about the Clairton garden, call 412-215-6830.

To learn more about community gardens in general, visit the Grow Pittsburgh website at

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or

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