Green thumbs abound at the Erie County Juvenile Detention Home. And the fruits of this garden will go toward a good cause.
Through the collaboration of detention home workers and the Erie County Men's Garden Club, a gardening project was launched a few weeks ago, said Krista Collins, director of the community corrections facility.
Six boys have been tilling the land, pulling weeds and nurturing rows of plants.
"It's good to be outside for once," said one 17-year-old boy. "We actually get to do something for our community. It's a good learning experience."
Last week the first vegetable plants found a home in a small patch of land. During the next few months those residing at the home long-term will take care of the plants.
"We can repay for what we've done," said another 17-year-old boy as he took a break from digging.
Garden Club members are donating their time to get the project started.
"It's gone well. The young men have been enthused and attentive, and they've gone ahead and implemented whatever little suggestions we've had," member Ron Wittmer said.
The boys are now tending to tomato, cucumber, green bean and pepper plants.
"It feels good we are not doing it for nothing," said an 18-year-old boy who has dabbled in gardening before.
Once ripe, the vegetables will be donated to Victory Temple Kitchen and Care and Share's food pantry.
"We're trying to give them a sense of giving back to the community," Collins said. "It's been real therapeutic for them to be able to come out here and do this. On a daily basis they are asking if they can come out here."
All six juveniles are nearing the end of their stay at the home and are granted additional privileges, such as gardening, because of their progress.
"We're trying to keep teach them a skill they can maybe utilize when they get home," Collins said.
Detention home workers hope the skills the boys learn gardening will be helpful after their release.
"They're responsible for something else besides themselves," juvenile therapist Jim Gellar said. "I'm amazed at how well they do."
Wittmer also said he hopes the project teaches the boys a life lesson.
"You put some effort in initially and give it a little tending, and life's the same way," he said.