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Local Gardeners Help Feed Needy

Westport Community Garden members Trish Williams and Sheila Bergmann are helping the Gillespie Center/Hoskins Place, an emergency homeless shelter for men and women, provide fresher and healthier meals, one vegetable at a time.

With help from other gardeners and Westport's Green Village Initiative, Trish and Sheila deliver a variety of freshly harvested produce to the center on Tuesday and Friday mornings.

"We do this as part of the Grow-a-Row program, a nationwide movement that basically encourages gardeners to add another row to their existing plot and then donate that food to pantries," Trish said.

At the Westport Community Gardens, though, two full plots are dedicated to the Gillespie Center, Trish said.

Not a new program, this is the first year harvested crops have been continuously delivered.

"This is our first year being this involved," Sheila said. "Since July, we've delivered whatever we can twice a week. And food we get from GVI really helps keep this going."

According to Trish, a visit to the center's food pantry inspired the two to take the program to the next level.

"Once we saw how bare the pantry was and what they were cooking with—mostly pastas and red sauce — we thought, 'Something has to be done. What can we do to help?'" Trish said.

In addition to fresh produce, Sheila and Trish have delivered protein-rich foods to the center.

Jeff Wieser, president and CEO of Homes With Hope, which operates the center, said the fresh produce is "hugely appreciated."

"The vegetables from the Community Garden are a great supplement to a lunchtime diet that seldom includes fresh food at the Gillespie Center," Jeff said in an email. "Our evening meal is delivered already cooked by our army of loyal, committed volunteers. ... As a result, most of the fresh food is eaten at lunch."

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