Teen hopes to make a garden grow year round

Teen hopes to make a garden grow year round

Avital Abraham aims to build greenhouse for interfaith coalition

Avital Abraham was pleased that the organic garden where she volunteered last summer would provide food for needy families all through the warm months.

But, wondered the Scotch Plains teen, what about the rest of the year?

“I was happy to know that three months out of the year people were being fed, but upset when I realized that during the other nine months, the garden wasn’t able to grow vegetables,” she recalled. “People who were fed by the garden were without this wonderful gift.”

Avital is the daughter of Rabbi Joel Abraham, the leader of Temple Sholom, the Reform congregation in Scotch Plains/Fanwood. Her mother is Michelle Shapiro Abraham, the educational director of the congregation. All her life, Avital has seen people tackling challenges and aiding those in need.

As part of her bat mitzva project, she decided to help erect a hothouse at the garden so fresh vegetables could be grown year round. According to her mother, including building, plants, and supplies, the hothouse will cost approximately $4,000. Those in charge hope to start building this October.

The garden is one of two started two years ago by Homefirst Interfaith Housing, an organization based in Plainfield that provides temporary and permanent housing to families in need. They also provide a variety of services and programs to help families get back on their feet. The gardens — one in Scotch Plains and one in Plainfield — are intended for that purpose.

Temple Sholom, together with a number of other synagogues and churches in the area, supports the organization with fund-raising and volunteer help. Avital, who has just finished seventh grade at Terrill Middle School, worked at the Scotch Plains site as part of a team from the temple.

She has helped Homefirst before, she said, “including fund-raising for summer camp bags with Girl Scouts, and collecting board games for my service learning project in school.”

But this is the biggest project she has ever led. She is seeking donations from individuals, organizations, and businesses. She is also planning to create an art piece to be displayed in the garden, showing those who help make her dream of a “Winter Garden” come true.

“Occasionally I get worried that we won’t be able to raise enough money,” she said, “but my parents have been very supportive and always remind me that everyone can make huge differences if they only try.”

Those interested in helping can go to the Homefirst website at homefirstinc.org.

“We are proud of Avital for bringing together the interfaith community, volunteer community members, Homefirst staff, and families to work with her on this worthwhile project in service of the community,” said Ellen Berk, the executive director of Homefirst.

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