For many, the holiday season is also the giving season, but not everyone can afford to donate dollars during this time of year. For area residents who want to give back to the community but cannot do so by giving money, there is another way. At the Giving Field, all it takes to give is a willingness to help and a strong back.
“All we’re asking for is your hands and your heart,” said Giving Field co-founder and master gardener Mary Mahlie.
The Giving Field is a community garden at 2895 Liberty St. in Beaumont that donates items to area residents who do not have consistent access to healthy and nutritious food choices. All food grown in the garden is donated to Southeast Texas food banks.
St. Anne’s students, Giving Field co-founders Mahlie and Sharon Begnaud (Giving Field volunteer coordinator), the Rev. Monsignor William Manger, Rabbi Joshua Taub and Capital One representatives gathered at the Giving Field’s new outdoor education center for a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the creation of the center, which will also be utilized as part of a rainwater collection system to provide water for the field’s organic garden.
“The genesis of the education center was we wanted to capture rainwater for the Giving Field,” Mahlie said. “Rainwater has no chlorine, so it is better to use. In order to capture the rainwater, we needed a roof.”
The roof covers a concrete slab complete with picnic tables and a chalkboard for students to learn about organic gardening and nutrition. To the left of the structure is a connected cistern that holds 2,900 gallons of rainwater collected by funneling the rain off the roof into a container. A small electric pump is utilized to distribute the water to the plants in the garden. Mahlie said there are plans to install a solar panel to run the pump for maximum sustainability.
“Our mission is to feed the hungry through education,” Mahlie said. “The field is open to all students in the community including Beaumont, Port Arthur, home schooled students and other schools.”
Mahlie said the garden is staffed on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to sunset and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon. Anyone in the community interested in volunteering labor can drop by the field during those times. Saturday, Dec. 14, volunteers will assist in harvesting this season’s lettuce, broccoli, kale and other greens and by planting snow peas. Organic fertilizer samples will be available, and local honey will be on sale at $3 for a small jar and $6 for a large jar. Mahlie said so far workers have harvested more than 20 gallons of honey from the Giving Field beehives. In addition, literature will be available for people interested in learning about organic gardening.
Funds for the new outdoor education center were provided through the H E and Kate Dishman Charitable Foundation managed by Capital One and other anonymous donors.