by Gerry Bonds
It’s a gray, nondescript building at 30th and Walnut, near the state capitol, but there’s magic going on inside. And lately, that magic is spreading outside too. It’s the home of OIC, which stands for Opportunities Industrialization Center of Oklahoma County, Inc., but everybody calls it OIC.
The magic happening INSIDE is all sorts of adult education classes for all sorts of people looking to reach their full potential. Many of them are underserved and need a boost. Some are there to get their GED, some to learn English, others to learn to read, or get some basic computer expertise, or even learn how to start a new business.
Part of the learning process at OIC is Health Literacy or wellness, and that’s where the magic on the OUTSIDE of the building comes in. A few years ago, three raised garden beds were built along the south side of the building with the help of generous donors and volunteers, and guided by the passion of Blair Lanning, OIC’s Outreach & Recruitment Coordinator. The goal was student participation and education about healthier food choices: Health Literacy. The bonus was that students got to take home the harvest! A win, win situation, for sure!
OIC has a dynamic and creative Executive Director. Her name is DesJean Jones. I fell in love with the work of OIC when I interviewed Jones for my program, “The Living Room with Gerry Bonds.” That day she invited me to pay a visit to the gray building and get more acquainted with the mission of OIC.
Fast forward a few years, and my interest in OIC’s Student Community Garden just gets stronger. I didn’t know at first that Cindy Schaefer was already very much involved in helping Blair and her project. We joined forces and then I invited Laura Mackie to join us. We’ve kind of become OIC’s three Garden Musketeers, I guess!
But it’s a work in progress and I mean WORK. Since there is no sprinkler system, and no nearby spigot, watering is a challenge. And the weeds……well, need I say more? Nevertheless, we’re plunging into another growing season, and, thanks to Cindy’s ingenuity, the beds will primarily become a salsa garden this time around. She’s already started the seeds at home and planted onions in the beds. And we’re thinking of including some pollinator plants on the perimeter to attract butterflies.
As soon as I pulled my car into the parking lot, I was hooked, because as looked out of my windshield, there were those three raised beds, filled with a wild profusion of tomatoes, kale, corn, peppers, rosemary, and more! I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening and how I could help it along. Once DesJean introduced me to Blair, we were on our way!
A Work In Progress
As if that wasn’t enough, Cindy, Laura and I decided to beautify the front entrance, since the gray building can use all the help it can get! So we’ve planted shrubs, ground cover, and summer annuals flanking the front doors. We also planted and care for a maple tree in Blair’s honor, since she has suffered some pretty serious health issues in the past year.
OIC students help when they can and the staff pitches in too, but it’s hit or miss, at best. So…. that’s where YOU come in. Help wanted: fellow Master Gardeners and Interns. Not only would it be wonderful to have regular waterers and weeders, it would also enable the Garden Musketeers to move forward with a proposed wish list for some other beautification ideas on site.
Maybe you’ll fall in love with the gray building too……..and the magic, thanks to Mother Nature!