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Alcoa volunteers chip in to plant community garden

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MASSENA — Alcoa and Massena Neighborhood Center volunteers got their hands dirty Friday when they took time to plant this year’s community garden at the Massena Neighborhood Center.

About a dozen Alcoa employees volunteered for the task, including some who were off work and wanted to continue tending to a garden that had been started by Alcoa four years ago.

“Alcoa volunteers had done it before and have an interest in it,” said Alcoa spokeswoman Darcy Fargo.

Neighborhood Center Executive Director Elaine H. Eggleston said the community garden became a reality after years of discussing the concept.

“We’ve always wanted to do that. We had been kicking it around for a number of years,” she said, and it took shape with the approval of the Neighborhood Center’s advisory board.

She said the garden has a number of items volunteers hope to grow this year, including tomatoes, peppers, green onions, rhubarb, cucumbers, yellow beans, green beans and summer squash. There’s also a separate flower bed.

The space also has 10 fruit trees — five apple and five pear — that were planted by Marc A. Tessier last fall as a project for a Community Action Angels’ “Kids Are Key” project. The trees, like the garden, were designed to produce food items that could be used each year for the less fortunate families in Massena and the surrounding towns.

“It gives families an opportunities to have fresh vegetables. What’s always nutritional and good for you is the most expensive,” Ms. Eggleston said.

She said it’s been “hit or miss” with the items since the garden was planted originally because of factors such as weather. But that hasn’t deterred volunteers from planting again each spring as they did Friday morning.

“The first two years Alcoa has come. Last year it was volunteers,” Ms. Eggleston said.

The gardens have to be tended daily, and Neighborhood Center staff and volunteers take care of that, the executive director said.

“Staff and volunteers come out and water just about every day and do the weeding,” she said.

Alcoa volunteers also do their part, even on their own time. Some of the employees were off the clock Friday but wanted to participate in the planting, and others had been released by their supervisors to spend the morning at the community garden, Ms. Fargo said.

“We work with the Neighborhood Center on various projects and they needed some bodies here. They’re a long-term partner of Alcoa and the Alcoa Foundation,” she said.

And so, on a sunny spring day, they tilled the soil and planted the seeds to ensure the Neighborhood Center would have an adequate supply of vegetables for distribution to its clients this year.

“The weather is nice and it’s a good cause,” Ms. Fargo said.

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