Let’s just say it’s not the typical gift to honor a newly inaugurated university president.
“I’m just so touched,” said Lehigh President Alice P. Gast, as she helped dedicate the new South Bethlehem Community Garden in Martin Luther King Park on Carlton Avenue Saturday afternoon. “When they asked me what I wanted for my inauguration, I said, ‘I want my own compost pile.’ And here it is.”
She was only half-kidding. The compost, donated by the Rodale Institute
, was for the new organic garden that will bring together members of the Lehigh community and people from Bethlehem in common purpose.
Common purpose was one of the themes of Gast’s inauguration remarks during the formal ceremony Friday afternoon. And that same theme ran through all of the Family Day of Service activities on a sunny spring Saturday that turned out to be the calm before the Nor’easter.
For a photo gallery of Family Day of Service events, click here.
The day began with a 5K run, and included Spring Fling games and crafts activities, including an Easter egg hunt, organized and run by Lehigh students for community children. In addition to the dedication of the new South Bethlehem Community Garden, Gast also visited the Wildflower Café and Gallery on New Street, where she joined with students, local artists, and others in cementing tiles for a mosaic mural project on the building’s side wall.
“A very potent symbol”
At Martin Luther King Park, Gast joined Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan in dedicating the community garden. Dale Kochard, Lehigh’s executive director of community and regional affairs, said the garden has 15 plots, and all of them are already spoken for by a mix of students and people from the community.
Lehigh students from the Association of Student Alumni
(ASA) helped erect a wooden post fence, and brightly colored yellow and red pansies lined the perimeter of the new garden.
For Helen Shivok, 89, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, the garden was a welcome sight. She came out for the dedication ceremony, and was pleased that Lehigh is partnering with the city on the project.
“It’s beautiful,” Shivok said. “I think it’s going to be a good idea. It’s a nice place for people to sit around on the chairs and just relax.”
The city of Bethlehem donated the space in the park, which has been “adopted” and looked after for the past couple of years by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
Scott Meyer, executive editor of Organic Gardening
magazine published by Rodale Inc. in nearby Emmaus, said community gardens in other urban areas have helped transform neighborhoods.
“It brings the community together. It’s a very potent symbol that somebody cares what the neighborhood looks like,” said Meyer, who offered his expertise in creating the garden.
He was joined at the ceremony by Heather Rodale ’74, ‘76G, ‘05P, whose late father, Bob Rodale ’52, built Rodale into the world’s most trusted health and wellness publisher.
Asked about the community garden, Heather Rodale said: “It’s very symbolic of growth, of the regeneration of a neighborhood.”
Those are themes that obviously resonate with Gast. “It’s an excellent opportunity to bring people together,” she said.
“The people are the pieces”
The same could be said of the mosaic mural project on the side wall of the Wildflower Café and Gallery. Gast, her husband, Bradley Askins, and daughter, Rebecca, got down on the sidewalk Saturday afternoon and helped place pieces of tile on the mosaics that will be attached to the “Fertile Ground” mural that will grace the Bethlehem Greenway when it’s completed in about six weeks.
The mural project grew out of discussions between two friends: Michelle Krier, owner of the Wildflower Café, and Loly Kinney, a Bethlehem artist. Kinney has worked with Lehigh students as a resident artist through ArtsLehigh
. She approached ArtsLehigh with the idea for the mural and the university-wide program dedicated to linking arts, learning, and life agreed to support the project.
As a result, students from a course taught by Norman Girardot, the University Distinguished Professor in the Religion Studies Department and co-director and faculty coordinator of ArtsLehigh, are working on the mural this semester.
“The relationship with Lehigh is amazing,” Kinney said. “We’ve gotten an immense amount of support from the university. We couldn’t be more excited.”
Creating a mosaic reflects artistically the message behind the mural, Krier said. “The people are the pieces.”
Girardot agreed. “A mosaic is a perfect symbol for building community,” he said.
Krier was especially thrilled that Gast took the time on her inauguration weekend to visit and lend a hand. “Having the president here today was really an awesome thing,” Krier said.
“A great day for everyone”
Throughout the day, an estimated 525 community children took part in the sixth annual Spring Fling, an event on the University Center lawn planned by students in the Community Service Office. More than 250 Lehigh volunteers turned out to make the day special for the kids.
After the 5K race, a community walk and kids’ races, the Spring Fling really kicked off with an egg hunt. Gast cut the ribbon and hundreds of children dashed off in search of thousands of plastic eggs with candy in them.
After the egg hunt, the action heated up on the lawn, where there was a semi-circle of more than a dozen tables—most of them for arts and crafts, including egg dyeing, spin art, face painting, photos taken with the Easter Bunny, a balloon artist, and a booth to create your own flower pot and then plant seeds in it.
In addition, there was a moonbounce, a pop corn stand, a cotton candy stand, a Jell-o station, hoagies, meatball sandwiches and pizza—all for free. A disc jockey added to the festive spirit of the occasion, playing fun music from noon to 3 p.m.
For older children, Spring Fling events included a scavenger hunt, a photo sticker booth, and a “create your own street sign” booth. There were even events for parents, including a series of door prizes, such as gift certificates to area eateries, and a cooking class offered by dining services. Student volunteers were even on-hand to baby-sit the kids while the parents picked up cooking tips.
Alison Heinly ’07, who works in Lehigh’s Community Service Office, has been the student organizer for Spring Fling the past three years.
“The turnout is amazing. This is way more kids than we’ve ever had at a Spring Fling,” Heinly said. “We reached out to the area elementary schools, middle schools and even an area little league and we got a great response.
“The whole goal of this event is to expose kids on the South Side of Bethlehem to our campus and to get them thinking about college at an early age,” she added. “It’s a great day for everyone. The kids come to Lehigh’s campus and have a good time, going on an egg hunt, doing some arts and crafts, eating lunch, playing on the moonbounce.
“And for us, it’s a special day, one of my favorite days of each school year. It’s a chance for us to reach out to the community, to interact with kids and to have a good time.”
Here are the overall results for the 5K race:
1. Edann Brady 20:05
2. Dana Stow 24:28
3. Pam Paskas 24:43
1. Patrick Belmont 17:56
2. James Dailey 18:59
3. Gregg Barr 19:55
All proceeds from the race went to support the Boys & Girls Club of Bethlehem.