PHOTOS — Greenhouse plan calls for community use, workshops for West Port Arthur

Published 12:18 am Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Students Julian, Zabraylin and Jalissa shared a new experience while using a hand trowel and planting a plant.

Anthony, on the other hand, wasn’t new to gardening — he previously planted mangos and avocados, he said.

The group of approximately 22 students from the Sam Houston Elementary School’s Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club got to see first hand how to plant a plant and also celebrate the West Port Arthur Community Garden’s ribbon cutting Monday.

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The ribbon cutting commemorated Entergy Texas’ partnership with United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County and a donation of $75,000 to help build a greenhouse at 601 W. 8th St.

The 30-feet by 15-feet greenhouse will have one side for community use and the other work for workshops, according to Janie Johnson, CEO/executive director.

The garden has a number of raised beds where residents as well as local groups grow produce. Some groups such as Alpha Kappa Alpha tend to a garden spot and distribute the produce to those in need.

Eli Viamontes, president and CEO of Entergy Texas, told the students they are the future of this community.

“This is part of enriching education. It’s about working together and the partnership,” Viamontes said.

Erin Peltier, United Way board president and employee with Chevron Phillips, said the project began in 2019 with Valero working with a group of community leaders who would then become the garden advisory board.

The board and the United Way began collaborating a year and a half ago to revive the garden activities that were impacted severely by the COVID pandemic.

The partnership has been a success and since then the garden has grown.

“During the year the garden has grown in so many ways,” Peltier said. “In the last year we have filled the garden beds with produce, hosted eight volunteer workdays, hosted local first graders in the garden for worm wrangling, and began collaborating with a master gardeners in the Ag (Agriculture) Extension Office, and the AKA sorority. Today is the beginning of a new phase of the garden.”

Johnson looked out over the crowd of students, local officials and others and declared “what a beautiful day in the garden.”

“As Erin mentioned, we’ve had a lot of volunteers out, we’ve also had food grown and distributed in the garden and in the community,” Johnson said. “And that is exactly what we want to do here in this garden. We want to produce food and not just produce food but show the difference that a garden can make. It’s more than just the food that’s grown, it’s the education that comes along with it and for that we partnered with the Jefferson County Agriculture Extension Office.”

Garden spaces are assigned. For more information, contact Janie@unitedwaymsjc.org or call 409-729-4040.