Volunteers at the 2023 Rotary Day of Service, including representatives from the Rotary Club of Enfield, the North Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce and S&S Tarnow Landscaping.
Photo courtesy of the Rotary Club of Enfield

ENFIELD — The 2024 Annual Rotary Day of Service — an outdoor volunteer opportunity to give back to the community — will take place on Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This year will include 800 Rotary Clubs and 30,000 Rotarians in 10 states — Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming — and five countries — Bermuda, Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil — for a rewarding day of service, friendship and community spirit.

The Rotary Club of Enfield’s project involves the Common Grounds Rotary Garden, a one-acre parcel of land that is located behind the Enfield Senior Center. The club is teaming up with the UConn Master Gardeners and students, the Enfield Food Shelf, the town of Enfield, the Enfield Senior Center, Allied Community Programs, the Enfield Garden Club, Home Depot and Johnny’s Roadside Market Garden.

President Julie Cotnoir for the Rotary Club of Enfield said, “The takeaway I want volunteers to have from this experience is with whatever skill they have, they’ve been able to help their community, learn a little bit and spend some time with Rotarians. It gives them an idea of what we do for our town and the world.”

She continued, “What we’re going to be doing that day is clean up, install a new water system that’s going to help us conserve the amount of water that we need, and some early planting for things that are able to be in the ground this time of year.”

Back in 2006, the rotary president, Henry Dutcher, helped spearhead the project to create a garden that would help the Enfield Food Shelf with fresh produce. They had a master gardener whose name was Amalita Grimes and she, along with Dutcher and Rotarians, started this garden. There was also a Board of Directors, with the most recent president of that board being Pat Bleakney.

The Rotary Club had large numbers of volunteers at the beginning, but now, obtaining volunteers is more challenging, resulting in Bleakney and a couple of friends working to take care of the garden.

Bleakney let the Rotary Club know that she could not keep up with the momentum. She wanted to still help but needed more support. “We’re taking the baton from Pat,” Cotnoir shared. “She will volunteer when she can but won’t be leading the group.”

The Rotary Club began talking with Executive Director Kathleen Souvigney of the Enfield Food Shelf and policy intern Brendon Dukett for the Town Manager’s Office of Enfield. They all realized the huge value to the town to have that garden producing and began inviting more people to the table to help them rejuvenate the volunteers that they need to make this a success.

“The Rotary Club of Enfield champions many worthy causes throughout the year and they are an important supporter of Enfield Food Shelf through this garden and in many other ways,” Souvigney said. “For the families in need at the Enfield Food Shelf, having this garden revitalized will mean continued weekly access to a wide variety of fresh and nutritious produce harvested and delivered locally each week.”

As a member of the Common Grounds Rotary Garden Revitalization Committee, Enfield Food Shelf is working to engage volunteers and create a social media presence. Enfield Food Shelf’s VISTA intern Christian Pasini has worked with Civic Champs to setup an electronic volunteer sign-up. Through Civic Champs, volunteers can sign up online for this year’s Rotary Day of Service, as well as for any days they wish to volunteer at the garden throughout the season.

Souvigney said, “My hope is we have enough volunteers to accomplish all the major projects related to readying the garden for the growing season.”

She went on to say, “With enough volunteers, we hope to accomplish the installation of irrigation and fencing, the repair [of] the garden shed, the cleanup and modification of the pathways and entrance to be more accessible and, of course, the cleanup [of] the garden beds.”

Dukett has been acting as a coordinator between the town and this community group. He has helped to try and bring different members of the community together to the conversation on how to make this event and the garden more inclusive.

Dukett shared that he hopes for a great turnout of people to help at the garden and hopes that they can get government correspondence from local leaders — including Town Council members and legislators — who can help show the importance of community groups working together.

“Rotary’s Day of Service is symbolic of one element of society that I feel is always glanced over or not given the opportunity to shine, and that is community engagement,” Dukett said. “Community engagement and giving back to your community is one of the pivotal points of what makes you an outstanding citizen and community member. Rotary’s Day of Service is a day to honor a cherished piece that makes the community in Enfield great.”

Volunteers are asked to bring their own gloves and gardening tools if they have them. The fresh produce grown throughout the season will benefit the Enfield Food Shelf and CT State Asnuntuck’s Pantry.

Download the Civic Champs app, setup an account, look for Enfield Food Shelf and you’ll find information about registering for volunteering for the garden.

To reserve a seat, call Taylor at the Enfield Senior Center at 860-763-7425. Walk-ins are also welcome.

Miasha Lee
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