The backyard at BethanyNewton United Church looks a lot different.
In a single day, 75 volunteers toiled in the soil Saturday to assemble a community food garden behind the 52-year-old church on 60th Avenue.
The event was organized by Can You Dig It, an environmental initiative that works to promote social interaction through gardening. Since 2009, it has constructed 25 plots in the Lower Mainland; the project in Newton was its third "garden in a day" project.
"People are talking about it and that's how this initiative has grown so quickly," said Monique Nelson, director of community engagement for posAbilities, a non-profit parent of Can You Dig It.
The garden has about 30 beds and is 55 feet wide by 95 feet long, with room to expand. Six of the plots were built about three feet high to allow handicapped and elderly citizens to participate.
"It's not just about growing fruits and vegetables," said Kim Cathcart, one of the coordinators. "It's about building community."
It was sheer coincidence - or perhaps an act of God - that the church got involved with Can You Dig It.
"I was talking to a friend of mine from Cloverdale United Church," recalled Rev. John Miller. "I said 'you won't believe what we're doing, we're building a community garden.'"
"They said, 'Well, so are we.'"
Miller's friend referred him to Can You Dig It, and with the help of a $4,000 grant from the United Church of Canada, the seed was planted.
Of the day's volunteers, 28 were from Telus, helping out as part of the company's annual Day of Giving. Roughly 12,000 Telus employees, friends, family members and retirees worldwide did something to give back to their communities over the weekend.
"This is not just an event in the Lower Mainland," said Mike Robertson, an IT director at Telus. "We also do it in the Philippines, in Las Vegas, in Guatemala, in Honduras."
"Wherever we have offices, we're doing this event."
The church will reserve one plot to grow crops to donate to the Surrey Food Bank and to use in its community kitchen. Miller noted that up to 15 families per month visit the church for meals.
Locals can purchase a plot for one year for $25, and the money is reinvested in sustaining the garden.
Even if all the plots are sold, people can still volunteer and help out in the garden.
"I'm looking forward to the time when three, four, five years down the road, we can come back and see how these gardens have sustained," said Nelson.
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