SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – When passing by the South Orange Elks Lodge building on Prospect Street, one can see the wiring that divides the South Orange Elks Rent Party Garden into different sections.
Some of the areas contain vegetables and other parts of the lawn are designated for fruits.
“We have beets, beans, carrots, kale, Swiss chard, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, blueberries and radishes,” said Karen Rutberg, director of garden operations at Rent Party, the organization that puts together the garden every year with the South Orange Elks Lodge.
As summer turns to fall, the garden is winding down on another successful season and has crops that need harvesting.
The garden has existed for the past eight years and is winding down on another successful season. For the past eight years, the garden has provided fresh produce to more than 100 families in need in the South Orange and Maplewood communities.
Volunteers come on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 to prune and weed the garden and on Saturday mornings from 8 to 9 a.m. to harvest the fruits and vegetables. The garden is open from late March to late October.
“You don’t have to be an expert in gardening,” said Rent Party Organizer Chris Dickson. “If people want to volunteer, they just show up.”
There’s still time to volunteer. People interested in helping at the garden can visit signup.com and search for South Orange Elks Rent Party Garden.
The garden has attracted people of all ages in the community, but especially students in elementary school through 12th grade.
“We get some repeat volunteers and we have a lot of drop-ins,” said Rutberg.
The garden has been an asset to those in need in South Orange and Maplewood.
About 2,000 pounds of food from the garden is donated each year to food pantries at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Maplewood, Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church in South Orange, and Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange. The organization also donates food to Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood through a program at the school.
The food pantries and the elementary school then distribute the food to people who need it.
“We’ve worked hard over the years to identify what our customers want,” said Dickson.
He said the garden supplies people with smaller sized fruits and vegetables instead of larger fruits and vegetables so people can transport them to their homes easily.
Visit signup.com for more information on how to get involved with the garden.