The Topeka Common Ground Project is an outreach ministry of Southern Hills Mennonite Church, promoting community, healthy living, and education through gardening. We work with children and adults, who are at risk, and collaborate with existing agencies for the betterment of individuals and the Topeka Community.
The Project has worked with seven schools, several agencies providing services to seniors and developmentally disabled adults, numerous agencies providing services to low-income families and the homeless, other churches and numerous Neighborhood Improvement Associations. Each year, we are approached by new schools and neighborhoods seeking assistance with school and community gardens. Common Ground is staffed by one part time coordinator and a Mennonite Volunteer operating out of the Topeka Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) Unit.Funding comes from private donations, fund raising activities, city grants and grants from private foundations. Funding our activities is a perennial problem. Though we are convinced of the worthiness of our efforts, and have the strong support of the parents, schools and communities we help, we are in need of operating funds. This is nothing new. The Project began in 1999 with $2,000, not enough to cover the VS stipend, yet we have managed to secure the necessary means to continue ever since.
At present Common Ground has a strong and active six-member board, including a non-Southern Hills member who serves as an officer. There are two fund raising events being planned, a letter campaign, and on-going grant writing. In addition, the church maintains an MVS fall-back fund that can help support the VS stipend.
- Maintain school gardens in seven schools and respond to additional requests.
- Organize and staff two neighborhood gardens and youth community garden.
- Provide fresh food to Topeka Rescue Mission and other agencies.
- Provide seniors and youth with garden-based cooking and nutrition instructions
- Organize and staff garden work with developmentally disabled adults at TARC.
- Build peaceful relationships with diverse peoples throughout the community by providing pleasant gardening situations where they can come together.
- Maintain funding through increased outreach to community.