The Cleves BLOC garden is growing. Yes, of course, it’s spring and that’s what gardens do. But also, thanks to the hard work of students, sponsors and the local Three Rivers community, the garden has expanded space, new fencing, 24 varieties of fruit and vegetables, and will produce a deeper impact on students and families in the Village of Cleves this summer.

Last summer’s garden – the first ever grown at The BLOC House in Cleves – cultivated an unused hillside behind the building into a plot yielding a variety of vegetables and some fruits. Students who come to the BLOC Ministries’ after school program took part in the Garden Club and learned from seed to plate about nutrition while tasting the results as well as handing out produce at community meals. This year 11 students of all ages helped plant seeds and seedlings, water and weed to get the 2017 garden growing.

“The students get to try vegetables – like brussels sprouts – that they haven’t eaten before. Last year we also canned some vegetables and even made our own salsa. It was a great learning experience from seed to harvest for the kids,” explained David Konrad, Cleves Food Pantry & Garden Director. “Students were able to take fresh vegetables home for their family to enjoy and gain healthy eating habits also.” Including produce shared with the Cleves BLOC free community dinners and the food pantry, over 115 families benefited from the Cleves garden with healthy food throughout the summer and early fall last year.

It really became a community effort this spring. Konrad, along with Eli Blackford, the local BLOC After School Director and community members Mark Hoffman and his son Joseph, tackled the hillside with shovels and a bulldozer, then built tiered walls. A fence surrounding the garden was put up and paid for through Crossroads West Side Church as a part of their Go Local project helping the community.

A host of neighbors and local organizations in the Three Rivers community donated money and/or time to help expand the Cleves BLOC Garden: Baker Insurance, Bob Bracken Homes, The Bridge Church (which meets in the BLOC building), Cleves Three Rivers Kiwanis Club, Dennis George Funeral Home, Duerk Financial Services, Merrilees Hardware, Dan Sullivan, Weber Farms in Harrison, and Whitewater Kroger.

A brief dedication service was held on Tuesday, May 23rd to formally open the garden, which is located behind the BLOC Center at 101 E. Main Street. Students helped Garden Director Dave Konrad snip the ribbon to officially open the plot.

Mayor Jan Rouse attended the opening on behalf of the Village of Cleves, and remarked: “We are lucky to have BLOC Ministries in our community; their innovative programs for youth and families are a true asset.  The Community Garden serves so many purposes, and like the plants that grow in the garden, the benefits will take root and spread.  The Village thanks BLOC, their donors and volunteers who took an unused hillside in Cleves and created something of great value for so many.”

Dwight Young, Executive Director, spoke briefly at the dedication and shared memories of almost 20 years’ of ministry in Cleves. The Cleves ‘BLOC House’ was the formal beginning of BLOC Ministries as a faith-based non-profit in 1998. BLOC serves over 2,000 students and adults each month now in Cleves and in East, West and Lower Price Hill. BLOC offers after school programs, arts and fitness, food pantries and free programs including services for at-risk women and jobs training for hard-to-employ adults. To learn more, get involved, or to make a donation to BLOC, visit their website at www.onebloc.org. Monetary donations to help the garden or non-perishable food for the food pantry can also be donated at the Cleves BLOC House.