Erie County Redevelopment Authority (ECRDA) recently began inventory of the contents of the former Erie Malleable Iron building at 12th & Cherry Streets. Among the many items left at the site were hundreds of wooden crates.
“We wanted to find a way to put some of the items to good use, to give back to the community,“ said Tina Mengine, CEO of ECRDA. “Everyone who saw these crates thought they would make great raised-bed gardens, so we thought why not donate them to neighborhood associations and non-profits.”
ECRDA sent an email to several neighborhood associations and the word spread quickly. Within 72 hours all the crates had been claimed, more than 200 in total. Distribution of the crates occured on Friday, May 21, 2021. ECRDA’s partner in the project was McCormick Structural Systems who donated the personnel and equipment necessary to move the crates from the warehouse for pickup. “We had this great idea but no way to move the crates safely. They were stacked to the ceiling throughout the warehouse. One call to Tim McCormick, (of McCormick Structural Systems) and without hesitation, he said yes. We couldn’t have done this without Tim and his team.”
Neighborhood and community groups, artists and entrepreneurs, novice and avid gardeners were among those that requested the boxes. For the Erie County Juvenile Probation Department, they were a perfect addition to their 25-year garden education program. Each summer the youth in Earn-n-Learn Summer Program and the Community Service Program are taught about gardening and everything grown is either donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank or taken home for the kids’ families. According to Juvenile Probation Officer Dennis Clemente, “We’re very grateful for the donation of these boxes which will provide additional raised beds and will enable us to plant new types of produce and produce that grows more than one season.” The Juvenile Probation Department requested six crates for their program.
Sister Gus’ Kids Café, located at East 10th & German provides meals and after-school and summer programs for neighborhood children. “We’ve wanted to start a garden with the kids but are surrounded by concrete! We’re excited to use the crates as raised garden beds where our children can plant, water, harvest, and then eat the veggies and herbs onsite,” said Breanna Mekuly, Coordinator, Sister Gus’ Kids Café.
Heather Casper, Executive Director of the SSJ Neighborhood Network was thrilled with the opportunity to expand their garden program, “For the past few years we have worked with the Erie County Health Department to provide workshops and materials for backyard gardening for our neighborhoods. The cost of materials has always held us back. These crates will significantly expand our community and backyard gardens. Thank you for salvaging and sharing these with us.”
CEO Tina Mengine added, “I’m so pleased that we are able to help so many worthy organizations and people. This is a great example of economic development resulting in community development.”