Posted on Dec 01, 2019
“Rotary Connects the World” is not just the Rotary theme for this year, it’s a phrase very familiar to the members of the Rotary Club of Bridgewater & District who know full well the benefits of connectivity.  In its 23-year history, this “not-so-large” Club (as members like to say) has seen the benefits that come from connecting with other organizations to work on projects in the local community.  None of these partnerships, however, have been as successful as the relationship the Club has developed with the Town of Bridgewater, especially when it comes to food security for residents.
In 2017, the Bridgewater Rotarians were attempting to respond to a challenge by then R.I. President Ian Riseley to plant a tree for every Rotarian.  However, none of the members knew much about selecting, planting or nurturing trees. Chris Sanford, the dynamic coordinator of the Bridgewater Community Gardens, found out about the Club’s plans and the rest, as they say, was history.  The Community Gardens operate as a program of the Town of Bridgewater and was started in part to help address food availability and food security for town residents.  An integral part of the policy is the Town’s “Foodscapes” or edible landscape program and Chris and her colleagues are always looking for new partners to help expand the number of food-producing trees and bushes.  Accordingly, the Rotary Club’s interest in tree planting was a welcome new partner for the town. 
Chris was quite happy to help guide the Club on which food-producing trees the Club should purchase and, as it turns out, peach trees are a good fit for the local climate and soil of Bridgewater.  She then arranged for the purchase of the trees from a trusted nursery and cared for them at her own farm until it was time for planting.  When the time was right, the Rotarians, with help from Chris and volunteers from the Community Gardens, planted the trees at two sites in the Town. 
Happily, all the trees have done well and have started to produce fruit. 
Not surprisingly, the success of this cooperative effort prompted the Club to examine other new projects it could do with the Town and the Community Gardens and it didn’t take long to find one.  This time it was a shed for gardeners who use a ¾ acre plot of land in the centre of the town called the Hodge Podge Garden. The town set aside this land to give residents a place to grow their own food or to donate their crops to the local food bank. Working with Chris and her Town colleagues once again, the Club came up with a design with a price tag of $4,800 for the project.  The Club raised half the cost of the materials through its annual golf tournament and funded the other half through their successful application for a grant from District 7820.
With the awarding of the district grant, everything fell into place and work began in the fall of 2018.  And once again, connectivity came into play. Chris arranged for the Town to use its equipment to prepare and landscape the site.  Still another connection was made when a local construction company, Tilia Builders, found out about the project and generously donated their skilled labour to the project.  In their spare time, the “pros” worked alongside Rotarians and garden volunteers to quickly finish the project in time for the start of the spring growing season.
The new shed is now a marvelous new addition to the downtown area of Bridgewater. Not only does it offer space for storing gardening equipment, but also for seed, fertilizers and produce for distribution.  It’s also used as a venue for educational programs for gardeners.  Now the Club will be working with Chris to find yet another new project.  As with the fruit trees and the shed, this future project is sure to be another example of how making new connections certainly does create lasting benefits, especially in a small town like Bridgewater.
 Just ask the members of this vibrant “not-so-large” club!