MABLETON -- Local volunteer gardeners and civic leaders gathered in the rich, wet dirt behind Vinings Lake Church to celebrate acquiring land to "interrupt poverty," one handful of vegetables at a time.

Our Giving Garden, a local nonprofit, recently closed on 3.2 acres of land purchased from the church to expand their mission of providing free, fresh produce for those in need. It was established in 2016 by volunteers working unused land behind the church.

“We were operating here before, but it wasn’t ours. It was going to be sold and everything was going away, so we bought it in an effort to save the garden,” said Judy Byler, director of Our Giving Garden. “We’re all volunteers.”

Organically grown produce from the garden is delivered to the Sweetwater Mission Food Pantry nearby, one of the state’s largest food pantries, she said.

“We donate it all. Often when we drop off at the pantry, we hear that our produce is the only fresh food a lot of families will get that day. Otherwise, its boxes and cans. We give them eggs from our 25 chickens, too, and they’re the only fresh eggs some of these families ever get.”

Giving Garden has donated over 2,400 pounds of organic produce and nearly 3,000 eggs to families in the community since it began. Giving Garden has also housed eight families, giving them the opportunity to work with a social worker, learn to save money and secure permanent housing, she said.

“The church had already purchased the land when I came here,” said Cody Deese, pastor of the nondenominational church.

“At the time, the church wanted to expand. But then as a team, we realized there were a lot better things we could do with this property than spend millions of dollars on a new building. There’s a lot of hungry people around us in our own neighborhood.”

Deece made the vacant land available to local volunteers to establish a community garden.

“It just kept growing and growing, and the volunteers created their own nonprofit. We realized for us that the church wasn’t going to do anything with this property, as far as we could see. We figured the best thing we could do is give them the security of owning the land. We sold it to them for what we still owed on it,” he said. “We deeply believe in what they’re doing here. It’s a part of who we are and what we do for the community.”

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