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Montclair Volunteers Plant Seeds for a Greener Future

February 21, 2012

When Lehigh Elementary School first planted its community garden in the early 2000s, aspirations for its use were enormously high. Not only would it make the campus look and feel nicer, but the plants and flowers the garden produced could easily be incorporated into the school’s studies of science.

Volunteers work in pairs to spruce up Lehigh Elementary School's garden.

Then came budget cutbacks. Forced to reduce spending on both staff time and gardening supplies, the school had little choice but to watch from afar as its garden became unwieldy and overgrown. “For the last few years it’d been in really bad shape,” says Colin Shull, AmeriCorps VIP Member and Volunteer Coordinator for the City of Montclair’s Human Services Division. “It had basically been overtaken by weeds.”

Recently, through a collaboration between the City of Montclair and the Lehigh Elementary School Afterschool Program, volunteers took some powerful steps towards reclaiming their once-beautiful garden. On Saturday, February 4th, over a dozen volunteers and staff gathered together to clear the garden of weeds and unwanted plants. Working in pairs and teams, the volunteers cleared out the entire garden of weeds in less than four hours—a huge success for the school and the volunteers!

Twelve volunteers worked with three staff members to complete the project. More improvements are scheduled for the future.

Even more exciting are the additional improvements the program has in mind for the garden. Through a grant from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, the Lehigh Afterschool Program has secured the funds to help grow vegetables to support the school’s Farmer’s Market. Additionally, says Manny Guttierrez of the Afterschool Program, the school will transform part of its campus into “a literacy garden, complete with benches and a fountain” to provide students with a calming environment.

Both the city and the school were thrilled with the outcome of the event. “It was inspiring to see so many people work together to renovate the Lehigh Garden,” says Shull. “I can’t wait to work with more great volunteers like these on future projects!”

For more information on how to volunteer with the City of Montclair, contact AmeriCorps VIP Colin Shull at

To find volunteer opportunities in other cities across the I.E., please visit HandsOn Inland Empire’s calendar of events at:

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