A team of 7 Master Gardeners volunteer weekly over a ten-month calendar in the garden. They maintained the CCYA Garden throughout the pandemic, being categorized as essential workers and grew over 1,800 pounds of produce to feed the kids during unprecedented times. Currently, with funding from the Food Well Alliance, our part-time garden manager and part-time chef, culinarily trained, maintains the CCYA garden under direction of Master Gardeners and provides continuity of care when Master Gardeners are unavailable. Quarterly, large volunteer groups from local corporations spend a day on campus assisting with a variety of large garden projects that assist the Master Gardeners. Groups from Home Depot, Six Flags and others help us cut down trees, prune all of the existing shrubbery on campus, install fencing, build sheds, spread mulch and more. All of our gardens have irrigation systems providing water for the plants. We are seeking funding for electricity in our hoop house and the chicken coop. We found funding to fortify our chicken coop from predators and build an adjacent aviary where the chickens can free range in safety. Over the past two years, Master Gardeners have been propagating all of our plant seeds. We are seeking funding to purchase a small greenhouse where propagation can occur. Currently, our Master Gardeners do it from their homes.

Master Gardeners work independently from most youth residing on campus as our youth are very busy with school, after school jobs, therapy sessions, daily tutoring and homework. The purpose of the Master Gardener Program at CCYA is to provide fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) to augment the meals that feed all of our youth and staff. At this time, Master Gardeners meet a minimum of once weekly to work in the gardens. Youth who volunteer to apprentice in the garden work under the supervision of our garden manager. They are paid a stipend for their work.

The CCYA gardens,  www.ccyakids.org, were part of the 2019 Cobb County Master Gardener Garden Tour. Annually, approximately 500 people visit the CCYA campus including tour groups from corporations seeking charitable outreach. Groups such as the Marietta Rotary Club, Leadership Cobb classes, Eagle Scouts and numerous other organizations provide assistance to CCYA. The CCYA Garden Project along with the CCYA Animal Assistance Therapy Program were finalists in the Harvard University Innovative Therapy Awards and the CCYA Garden Program was featured in the American Horticulture Society’s National Children & Youth Garden Symposium in Los Angeles, California.

Master Gardeners at CCYA are seeking partnerships with area garden clubs to help us maintain the Flower Garden. We would love for some volunteers to come as a group once a year for 2-3 hours (dependent upon number of volunteers) to help weed, dead-head and keep our flower garden looking lovely. The flower Ggrden was professionally installed by High Grove Partners 3 years ago. It is approximately 20 feet x 50 feet. If we could get a garden club to come in the spring, another in summer and another in the fall, we would be ecstatic.

 Anyone interested in helping with the CCYA gardens can reach me via email at: lokme@hushmail.comMaureen Lok, Cobb County Master Gardener/ Past Board Chair The Center for Children & Young Adults