Bruce's Blog


Plant, Water, Weed, Repeat

April 2nd, 2022

“Plant, water, weed, water, weed, weed, water, weed…” That’s what Trisha Belbot, UCOM’s Growing Green Neighbors Manager, replied when I asked her how to have a successful garden.

Then she added, “Know what you are doing and harvest at the right time. There is no avoiding the hard work if your garden is going to thrive.”

I thought her gardening explanation was a beautiful analogy for the progress our neighbors are making in their lives and in our neighborhood.

How do you create a more just economic situation in any community? It is all about caring, good planning, putting in the work, and cooperating on a shared vision.

United Church Outreach Ministry (UCOM) began its current work in 1985, growing out of a vision of a neighborhood church, Smith Memorial Congregational United Church of Christ that needed to sustain its food pantry ministry and the larger body, the Grand West Association of the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ.

In a recent visit Betsy Dole, UCOM’s founding board president reminded me that, as important as access to nutritious food is, the emergency food portion of UCOM’s ministry is not the bigger issue. “Hope is UCOM’s main contribution to our community members. It is not just food for the immediate need, but all the options for sustainable lives that makes us a neighborhood jewel.”

Because I was thinking in terms of spring planting, I saw Betsy’s remark as UCOM’s sowing seeds of hope in our neighbors’ lives.

While the Healthy Choice Food Pantry, the clothing pantry, baby and hygiene pantries connected to UCOM offer resources for living, it is the cooking and nutrition classes, the Walking Club, Sit and Be Fit, community and individual gardening opportunities, Financial Literacy sessions, the Farm Stand and Best Foot Forward (BFF) workforce development that offer hope for a lifetime.

All of the work our neighbors put in to the UCOM family experience nurture these fragile but resilient seeds of hope.

At UCOM we don’t presume to know what our neighbors need. We listen and give feedback to help people ascertain their own needs, dreams, and aspirations. Then we seek to be present as needed to encourage those dreams. We are intentionally here as a sounding board when our neighbors need to bounce ideas off someone who believes in them. Everyone is an individual here with no judgment, just support.

Through 37 years of planning, trial, and error, UCOM has been a beacon of hope helping people to identify their assets and to build on those a little at a time until they know that someone else recognizes their value.
Over time, not omitting the hard work of overcoming all the barriers society places in their way, seeds of hope grow and our neighbors find their place to blossom and bloom and make their own difference in the world.

Like gardening, this is not an overnight process from planting to harvest. It is a day-to-day process (complete with growing pains, discouragement, failure, reevaluation, and getting back up again) until often ultimately success is the harvest.

And then it all begins again…



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