Building Raised Beds and Raising Hope among the Poor

It’s great to know that in a hurting economy there are Christians shining their light and two such light-bearers are Suzanne and Barry Birch from Portland, Oregon.

Building Raised Bed Gardens and Building Hope

Brot (Bread)-By Klaus Höpfner at de.wikipedia (Original text :Helge Höpfner)*

Back in 1992 a local charity wanted to find someone to give some left-over bread to and they ended up contacting the Birches. The Birches gave away the “squished bread” that was dropped off on the porch-to three needy families. From there things just took off and more and more families came to the Birches for help and soon businesses and other concerns started donating food to them and it was a bit like the biblical story of the loaves and the fishes.

“We had to move bread when we had company,” Barry said in an interview I caught on the 700 club. “It just sort of took over the whole house.”

Building Raised Beds with BCS

Community Gardening/img courtesy Ernest von Rosen                  

From there as more and more people began to hear about what they had to offer they had to purchase a premises to house all the donated food that was coming in. As they attracted more people willing to help and give back they incorporated becoming the non-profit Birch Community Services or BCS. They were able to move into a warehouse and now many of the people they have helped have become volunteers, helping others.  They are not just a charity ,donating food.   Members are asked to give back to others as well.  At the center of it are 600 member families, most of whom are still working, but many of whom are close to the poverty line.

These members are asked to make a  minimal $50-a-month payment, and also volunteer their time.  In exchange for that these member families can choose food and goods from the many racks and displays when the warehouse is open for community ‘shopping.’  Except it’s not really shopping- there are no cash registers where you pay after you’ve loaded up your cart.

It’s not just food they get-members can develop their skills in different areas.  One room in the warehouse has computers where members of the community can develop their computer skills.  They have a ‘raising chickens’ class-and gardening classes!

Community Gardening and Building Raised Beds

A lot of the vegetables they give away come from their own community gardening initiative.  The BCS teach how urban dwellers can create food from their homes.   Melissa Youd, one of the organizers of the community gardens suggests families learn how to build a raised bed garden, and they then help provide materials to teach them about building raised beds.  These are, as the name suggests, beds for vegetables (or flowers if you really want) grown above ground level, framed either with timber or stones or with simple mounds of earth and compost.

“It’s easier to garden,” Melissa says. “There are less weeds; you can keep your animals out. The moles stay out.”

My wife has always been a keen gardener but recently I have been really taken with the idea of building raised garden beds, not just for the health benefits.  So much so I got an e-book on how to build them published recently.  There may be those out there who like the concept of raised bed gardening but simply have no knowledge of how to go about it.  And you have no access to the BCS community groups.  Well, good news!  The book tells how even if you are someone as non-greenfingered as myself, or if you are a 71-year-old, you can build these types of gardens.  For a short time I will make this available on free loan at Amazon.

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed with Your 71 year old Mom!One of the reasons why this non-profit works so well (apart from the obvious blessing of God) is that members are given  ” hand up, not a handout” and they get to be part of a community to share with and give back to.

In an era when governments are running out of cash trying to help reduce poverty and satisfy the interests of narrow self-interest groups should this not be a lesson to us all in helping the poor and helping society at the same time?

©  2012. All rights reserved.

*Picture of bread above [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons


Related links: Birch Community Services

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed With your 71-year- old Mom!

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We got our timber at a local timber yard but you can look for Garden Beds online here:
Lifetime Raised Garden Bed Kit, # 60053

Greenes 4 Ft. X 8 Ft. X 10.5 In. Cedar Raised Garden Bed

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