CONWAY — The seeds of future gardeners or carpenters may have been planted Wednesday at the North Conway Community Center, where youngsters attending summer camp there worked alongside staff from Home Depot and members of Knights of Columbus Council 7575 to build six raised garden beds.
“It’s so much fun; we’re learning, too,” said camper Sophia Goodwin, a sixth-grader from Bartlett.
NCCC Executive Director Carrie Burkett was thrilled with the teamwork on display and impressed by how quickly the campers got into the flow of the task.
“Look at them,” she marveled. “They’re so into this.”
Burkett said the idea of raised garden beds was the brainchild of community center basketball coach Dale Drew, who serves on the North Conway Fire Department with Assistant Chief Chad McCarthy. The two of them built the prototype for the project.
“Dale Drew has so much enthusiasm,” said Burkett. “He was super pumped and was able to get Brad (Bousquet, general manager of the Home Depot in North Conway) on board. We were able to do a grant through Home Depot.”
Bousquet, she said, “got us enough money to be able to do five beds, but we realized we have enough materials to do six,” she added. “What we intend to do is to raffle off one of them. These are beautiful. I want one for my house.”
The beds measure 3 by 8 feet, have salvaged galvanized metal roof panels for the sides and base and pressure-treated lumber.
“The beds are about 32 inches tall so kids and adults alike can work in them without the need for bending or kneeling,” Burkett said, adding that they will be used for collaborative programming between the summer camp and the Gibson Center for Senior Services.”
Burkett said Gibson Center staff made lunch for everyone who worked on the project Wednesday.
A lot of the work — the precutting, pre-drilling and lining up of materials — was done Monday by Knights of Columbus volunteers and Home Depot staff.
“A lot of the Knights of Columbus also volunteer for Habitat for Humanity,” said Burkett. “They’re very accustomed to batching out cuts, having a plan ready. They’re skilled volunteers who are familiar with having kind of less-skilled volunteers come in and guiding them through the process.”
Knights of Columbus members helping with the build included Grand Knight Bob Gildea, Joe Bukartek, Kevin Kilbride, Bill O’Meara, Nate Johnson and Dave Mills. “We do volunteer work around the community quite often,” said Mills. “We like to help out where we can.”
“This is what a community project is all about,” added Gildea. “The kids have been great. They’re getting a taste for the trades.”
On hand from Home Depot were Robin Matthews, Krista Ames, Sheri Ballou, and Colleen and Brad Bousquet.
“The kids love this,” said Matthews, “especially getting to use the tools. They all took turns using the drills and hammers. It’s been neat to see them enjoy this so much.”
The garden beds will sit at the rear of the property, almost abutting the parking lot for the North Conway Country Club.
“If we can get all the soil in by the end of camp and some stuff planted, then we’ll be able to have some fall crops,” said Burkett. “Every year, we’ll make it happen and get kids involved. We’ll get the Gibson Center involved.”
Sixth-grader Rayan Kastrati and fourth-grader Jasper McDougall felt right at home helping out with the project.
“My dad is a landscaper, and I help him with this sometimes,” said Rayan. “Today, I’m learning more about how to build things.”
Jasper said his mother used to work for Home Depot and now works at Hancock Lumber, “so I sort of know about building.”
Rolling up her sleeves, Burkett helped with everything from assembling the beds to measuring posts for additional cuts.
“I built my own house, so I picked up a skill or two,” she said.
Burkett is now looking for a little bit of community help for the beds.
“I think we’re going to need volunteers to help maintain the beds. We need people willing to come over and water or weed. Luckily, we’re late into the summer so weeds aren’t as much of an issue, but just maintaining the beds, we are going to need volunteers to do that. If anyone is interested, we’d love to have you.”
Anyone who would like to help maintain the garden beds is asked to contact Carrie at the community center at (603) 356-2096.