Bethel Lutheran harvests community love through church garden

by Alex Vukoder

For years, Bethel Lutheran Church’s service ministry group has combined their green thumbs and generous spirits to provide food and flowers to the community through its 50-by-50-foot garden plot. Sher Ellsworth, a twenty-year member of the church, heads up the garden work along with about 25 other members, including Kris Burkett, Robin Fabo, Julia Villasenor, Debbie Karasek, Lori Rader and ministry group leader Pastor Jon Weaver.

Ellsworth, affectionately known as the “Garden Lady,” said the vision for the garden is to share food and educate people.

“So many of us have so much. We feel it is important to help those in need,” she said. “The garden is a way to show love.”

The church grows a large variety of vegetables including those with longer shelf lives such as potatoes, cabbage and onions. Eight dwarf fruit trees were added to the garden this spring. Vegetables are donated to the Revere Local Schools summer pantry, which provides more than twenty local families with food in June and July. Church members also donate vegetables to the Richfield Senior Center for their weekly community lunch and to the nonprofit Feeding Medina County. Last year, the community garden provided 800 pounds of vegetables to the community and this year’s harvest will exceed that number.

The garden is a whole congregation effort with members mulching, weeding and watering the plot. The church’s daycare children help pick blackberries while they learn about how fruits and vegetables grow. Church members also add to the available harvest each week from their personal flower and vegetable gardens.

“Our church totally supports our service ministry with everyone pitching in. It takes a village,” said Ellsworth.

The food from the garden helps feed people but the flowers provide the comfort and encouragement that only a small gift and a short visit can. Members pick and arrange beautiful bouquets made up of dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, daisies and more. Bouquets are donated to Blue Stream Nursing Home, the Inn at Apple Ridge Assisted Living and the Richfield Senior Center. The church also supplies flowers to RAHAB Ministries in Akron, an organization that assists victims of sex trafficking. About 400 bouquets have been distributed and members often stay and visit with residents of each facility.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope,” said Ellsworth. “We are happy to provide a bouquet to any local resident that might need some extra love via flowers.”

For more information on how to support Bethel Lutheran Church’s efforts or request food or flowers for yourself or a community member, call the church at 330-659-9069 or email ∞

Flowers from the garden are made into bouquets for community members.

Photo (main – above): Preschoolers from Bethel Lutheran help pick blackberries in the garden. Photos courtesy of Sher Ellsworth.