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Grant helps ministry reap the rainfall

Fried green tomatoes aren't just the stuff of summertime chick flicks. They're one of the staple foods of the Urban Ministry Center's soup kitchen. And with the help of a new grant, the kitchen can serve the goodies all summer long.

The center received a $9,000 grant from Organic Gardening magazine to install a “rainwater harvesting system.” The 1,600-gallon cistern collects runoff water from the Urban Ministry Center's roof and cleanses it of debris, to water the center's garden.

The roof is “the perfect rain collector,” garden program director Don Boekelheide said.

Urban Ministry Center, located on College Street close to uptown, provides a daytime home and a daily meal for many of Charlotte's homeless. Its on-site organic garden was recognized by Organic Gardening's WaterWorks program, an effort to provide community gardens across the country with money to store and harvest rainwater.

The Urban Ministry Center's 3,000 square foot garden produces what Boekelheide called “some of the freshest and best organic food in the whole county.”

Instead of using only donated food, which is often close to expiration, the center can grow much of its own food for its soup kitchen.

“We grow things that people like to eat,” said Boekelheide. That includes okra, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers, and a summer mainstay – tomatoes.

Last summer's water restrictions forced the garden's food production to a bare minimum. And Mecklenburg County is currently under extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“That's where the cistern comes in,” said Boekelheide.

This summer, instead of battling short periods of heavy rain followed by weeks of no rain at all, the cistern provides a consistent source of irrigation for the center's garden.

This week's thunderstorms have provided enough water to fill the entire tank.

“The cistern gives us the water to carry us between rainstorms,” Boekelheide said.

Boekelheide knows it's a small solution. But it's saving Charlotte thousands of gallons of treated water and providing food along the way.

“We're feeding people who are hungry here,” he said.

Fried green tomatoes aren't just the stuff of summertime chick flicks. They're one of the staple foods of the Urban Ministry Center's soup kitchen. And with the help of a new grant, the kitchen can serve the goodies all summer long.

The center received a $9,000 grant from Organic Gardening magazine to install a “rainwater harvesting system.” The 1,600-gallon cistern collects runoff water from the Urban Ministry Center's roof and cleanses it of debris, to water the center's garden.

The roof is “the perfect rain collector,” garden program director Don Boekelheide said.

Urban Ministry Center, located on College Street close to uptown, provides a daytime home and a daily meal for many of Charlotte's homeless. Its on-site organic garden was recognized by Organic Gardening's WaterWorks program, an effort to provide community gardens across the country with money to store and harvest rainwater.

The Urban Ministry Center's 3,000 square foot garden produces what Boekelheide called “some of the freshest and best organic food in the whole county.”

Instead of using only donated food, which is often close to expiration, the center can grow much of its own food for its soup kitchen.

“We grow things that people like to eat,” said Boekelheide. That includes okra, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers, and a summer mainstay – tomatoes.

Last summer's water restrictions forced the garden's food production to a bare minimum. And Mecklenburg County is currently under extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“That's where the cistern comes in,” said Boekelheide.

This summer, instead of battling short periods of heavy rain followed by weeks of no rain at all, the cistern provides a consistent source of irrigation for the center's garden.

This week's thunderstorms have provided enough water to fill the entire tank.

“The cistern gives us the water to carry us between rainstorms,” Boekelheide said.

Boekelheide knows it's a small solution. But it's saving Charlotte thousands of gallons of treated water and providing food along the way.

“We're feeding people who are hungry here,” he said.

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