Good neighbours: Garden grows more than vegetables

Four months after planting, a new garden at the Seven Oaks mental-health facility is bursting with life.

The project got started through a horticultural fund established for the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Victoria with a donation from Ian Back. The first grant went to the John Howard Society to create the Seven Oaks garden, an initiative called Feeding Ourselves and Others.

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The Backs created the horticultural fund to give financial assistance to local garden projects. Ian Back said the city is blessed with beautiful gardens and considerable gardening knowledge, but there has been a gap in the availability of money for adding to that legacy.

"My hope is that other garden enthusiasts in Greater Victoria will recognize the benefit of having such a fund and will provide additional capital, so that the horticultural fund can quickly grow to [such] a size that its annual earnings can help to enhance Greater Victoria's reputation as a city of gardens," he said.

Foundation president Ann Geddes said the Seven Oaks garden will be presented to the public at an event in September. Details are pending.

"It's a lively garden, doing good things with people," she said.

Project co-ordinator David Stott said there are currently 14 people working on the garden, including Seven Oaks residents and people from the downtown area dealing with struggles in their lives. He said the idea is to teach them about nutrition as well as gardening, and to encourage mutual support.

"The activity here is a great way for them to become more engaged in the community," said Dave Johnson, executive director of the John Howard Society, which works with people who have been in prison or in trouble with the law.

"It's something that happens on a regular basis, and the staff that they're working with are able to help maintain the involvement."

He said the produce from the garden is spread around. There is a variety of vegetables, and plans call for edible native plants to be put in during the fall.

"Some of it goes to the participants," Johnson said. "A lot of it goes to [Our Place] and also to the Mustard Seed."

Knowing that they are giving something to the community is a real boost for project participants, Johnson said.

A total of $50,000 has gone into the project so far, including the money from the grant and other donations. It is also being helped along by people with gardening expertise who volunteer their time.

"We hope that this project will become a permanent community facility," Stott said.

For grant information , go to


Registration continues for the Easter Seals Drop Zone, a high-flying charity event that gives people the chance to rappel from the top of the downtown CIBC building.

All it takes is a minimum of $1,000 in individual fundraising to be part of the action. Participants, assisted by experts, will climb over the edge of the 13-storey building and lower themselves to View Street.

Both teams and individuals are welcome to sign up.

Costumes are encouraged, and many choose to go with a superhero theme.

This marks the seventh year for the Drop Zone in Victoria. The event is scheduled for Sept. 13, and is one of 15 being held across the country.

Funds generated in Victoria go to a pair of causes: Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan, which provides children with disabilities a summer-camp experience, and Easter Seals House, which accommodates children with disabilities who travel to Victoria for medical treatment.

Call 250-370-0518 or email


Organizers of the Fair Start program, which collects school supplies for children in need, are once again collaborating with Hillside Centre.

Hillside shoppers can support the effort by dropping off new or gently used supplies at the centre's Fair Start display, made to look like a big yellow school bus. Donations can also be left at the customer-service desk.

The most-needed items include geometry sets, crayons and pencil crayons, loose-leaf paper, calculators and Duo-Tangs.

Fair Start, now in its 15th year, was started in 1998 through the work of Linda Matthews and her late mother, Vera Webb. The program distributes about 800 school-supply hampers each year through the Mustard Seed Food Bank.

Also collecting donations of school supplies is the Compassionate Resource Warehouse, which will be sending them to developing nations. The warehouse initiative has been sending a wide range of items around the world for the past 12 years, thanks to the efforts of more than 150 volunteers.

Call 250-381-GIVE or go to


Inspired by its singer's stepmother, who has multiple sclerosis, the band Rock of Ages is staging a Sept. 2 fundraising concert to benefit the MS Society.

Rock of Ages plays music from the '60s, '70s and '80s, complete with costume changes. The dance will be at the V Lounge, part of the Red Lion Inn at 3366 Douglas St., and starts at 8 p.m. Band members have also been gathering items for a silent auction.

Tickets are $5 and are available at the Red Lion's front desk.

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