April 16, 2014

Elyria
Mostly sunny
45°F
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Community garden in North Ridgeville provides seniors with fresh produce and helps city’s Community Care

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Despite Thursday’s oppressive humidity following early morning rain and temperatures flirting around 90 degrees, the two men didn’t mind sweating for another 45 minutes as they showed off what their community garden had produced.

Mark Petricevic, left, and Bill Yirava tend to the North Ridgeville community garden project, which is benefiting the city’s Community Care organization in addition to providing produce to individual gardeners from the Del Webb Pioneer Ridge retirement community. (CT photo by Steve Fogarty.)

Mark Petricevic, left, and Bill Yirava tend to the North Ridgeville community garden project, which is benefiting the city’s Community Care organization in addition to providing produce to individual gardeners from the Del Webb Pioneer Ridge retirement community. (CT photo by Steve Fogarty.)

“I’m just a compulsive guy, I guess,” Bill Yirava said. “I like to see a project through once I start it.”

The retired 74-year-old banker leads the group of Pioneer Ridge residents for whom the neatly cared garden plots are a clear labor of love.

About 30 residents of the Del Webb Pioneer Ridge retirement community near Chestnut Ridge Road have neatly planted and maintained rows of corn, tomatoes, squash, cabbage, beans and zucchini.

“I do this because I enjoy it, and because my wife is still working,” Mark Petricevic said. The tall 64-year-old retired from Fairview Hospital, where he served as director of research for the surgical department.

“A lot of us had been asking for something like this for about a year, but the homeowners’ association wasn’t able to accommodate us for various reasons,” Petricevic said.

Then a deal between a local farmer and the city made the area available for community gardening.

“It was serendipitous,” Petricevic said.

“The farmer, Bob Ternes, tilled the soil and got it ready for us into nice, fine dirt,” Yirava said.

While some of the produce raised in the roughly 40, 15-by-15-foot plots will be used by those planting it, the garden’s bigger purpose is to benefit the city’s Community Care organization, a nonprofit agency that has provided food, clothing and housing assistance to qualified out-of-work and under-employed North Ridgeville residents for more than 20 years. The agency serves about 900 people a month.

“Many people who live there (Pioneer Ridge) had little gardens before coming there, and they missed it,” said June Yost, Community Care’s director. “That whole community has been very supportive.”

The donations of fresh produce are a godsend for people unable to afford store-bought vegetables and fruits, Yost said.

“It’s just cost-prohibitive for many of our people,” Yost said. “This way they can take whatever we have.”

An initial basketful of food harvested from the garden presented to Yost last week included green beans, eggplant and jalapeno peppers.

“It’s amazing to me that they are one of the most popular items,” Yost said with a laugh. “You couldn’t get me near one of those.”

Elbow grease helps keep the plots neat and tidy.

“You have to be meticulous to keep weeds out,” Petricevic said, noting a good-looking patch of cantaloupe put in by Leo Hill, a Vietnam-era Purple Heart recipient. “He wanted to do something different.”

Gardeners spend varying amounts of time in their plots.

“Some work for 15 minutes and are done, while others stay with it for hours,” Petricevic said.
“People do what they can do.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.