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David French, recipient of the DAR Community Service Award, stands next to Osawatomie’s “Over the Rainbow Community Garden.”

Editor’s note: The following article was submitted by the Marais des Cygnes Chapter DAR.

It is said that “God Almighty first planted a garden,” but at His fingertips He had all the resources earth could provide.

In the absence of divine capabilities, how in the world did what is now a showcase community garden become a reality at 316 E. Pacific Ave. in Osawatomie when, in 2013, it was just a vision by a mere mortal with $100 in his pocket?

Its name, “Over the Rainbow Community Garden,” suggests perhaps some magical power was created by twice clicking ruby slippers together. Or, perhaps, just perhaps, the truth stands right before our eyes, personified as David French, who was blessed with the gift to help others and the generosity to share that gift, sparking a contagion of good will among the broader community resulting in a garden of goodwill.

When the idea first sprouted as Dave and other attendees traveled home from a men’s Christian trip, he immediately lamented he didn’t have any land, and what was a garden without land? When the vehicle driver responded, “Yes you do — our land,” David could not believe what he heard. The contagion had begun.

Still, there were many other obstacles to overcome during that year of planning, as it takes funds to purchase seeds, plantings, tools, tillers, a tractor, and it takes people to till, plant, weed, water and harvest the bounty, and it takes professional assistance to complete the necessary non-profit status paperwork, and it takes city approval and support.

The contagion grew as fundraising and grants raised over $50,000 to purchase needed equipment. A Middle School Garden Club was formed, teaching the math, science and problem solving associated with “farming” but also a devotion to Mother Nature heeding her need for a healthy environment.

The “Over the Rainbow Community Garden Club” was formed. A local greenhouse grew the seeds to plant to assist. USD 367 students and Tri-Ko clients gladly volunteered while earning “credits” toward a post high school scholarship, which, over the last eight years, has resulted in about 60 scholarship students receiving in excess of $17,000.

Home Depot provided an entrance shed and arbor, both erected in one day by 60 volunteers. Walmart provided materials to build a trail for the disabled and plastic raised beds. The garden is ablaze not only with the earth’s bounty but also student artwork of signage, catchy quotes and autographed projects. Four personalized mini lending libraries (berry patch, church, schoolhouse and a house) contain themed books such as gardening and Nathan Project Bibles.

The garden was also the recipient of two Eagle Scout projects, one providing a flagpole and the other four recycling bins. Not to be outdone, the Girl Scouts provided a walking trail bridge. And, of course, what would a garden named “Over the Rainbow” be without its very own Yellow Brick Road.

The most recent “positive test” of contagion was evidenced when adjacent land was offered for garden use by the owner. Currently, about 15 families tend 30 plots for their personal use, many using the garden’s stash of tools, with the remaining 70 plots tended by volunteers who also oversee the produce sales stand, which donates unsold product to local food pantries.

On any given day, one can observe a blissful scene of as many as 100 people gathered in a united effort in tending their garden of produce and goodwill.

This garden is as all gardens are meant to be, an outside classroom studying not only agronomy but how human relationships can be blessed with the contagion of goodwill from a single seed to create a Garden of Goodwill.

Given another contagion, one of ill will, is sweeping our beloved homes, changes in garden operation will be implemented due to COVID-19. During Phase 1.5, no youth will be permitted, although a child can be accompanied by a parent, social distancing will allow only 10 social-distancing adults at any one time on the site until restrictions are lifted.

Garden produce will be distributed this year possibly from other locations to be determined, as well as a farmers market in Osawatomie. Garden produce will also be donated to the Osawatomie Food Pantry. Recipients are asked to purchase and donate what their budget allows.

For more information, contact David French at (913) 259-1143 or the “Over the Rainbow Community Garden Club” Facebook site.

Marais des Cygnes Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is honored to award David French one the Chapter’s 2020 DAR Community Service Awards.

The Community Service Award is given to worthy individuals and organizations for outstanding voluntary service achievements in cultural, educational, humanitarian, patriotic, historical, citizenship, or environmental conservation endeavors.

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