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Boy Scout, parishioners, alumni
maintain brick meditation garden

By Staff
special to The Star
Five years ago, a vacant lot that once was the site of the old St. Joseph School was a reminder of better times in the East End community to members of St. Joseph's Catholic Church and alumni.
Many church members were disappointed that the school, which was established in 1910, had to be demolished and couldn't be restored and renovated for the community.
But of instead of dwelling on what could have been, church members collaborated with St. Joseph School alumni, St. Patrick Catholic Church members and St. Paul's Episcopal Church, securing grants to develop the area into a community meditation garden.
In 2001, the church established the St. Joseph Brick Meditation Garden on the lot at 1914 18th Ave.
The garden sits atop the former school's foundation. It is surrounded by a wall of bricks from the original school that was built for people of all cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds.
Within the wall are memorials and tributes to the living and dead.
The embankment surrounds a statue of St. Joseph, and bricks with more memorials and tributes lie beneath its feet. Just below the statue sits the cornerstone of the old school Mount St. Joseph Colored School boasting its 1910 construction date.
Lasting memories
James Chaney, a former altar boy and a slain civil rights worker, is memorialized at the site along with the Rev. Arthur Winters, the first black pastor of the church, and the Rev. John Kersten, an original member of the Society of the Divine Word, which established the school.
Also memorialized are Mother Katherine Drexel, who donated $11,000 in the early 1900s for the school's construction; the nuns who first taught at the school; and the classes of 1946, 1954 and 1961 the last graduating class.
St. Joseph's established a Meditation Garden Committee, which works with the school's alumni and parishioners to develop the land into a garden. The committee also sponsors a booth at the annual Arts in the Park Festival to secure additional funds for the garden.
In addition, the church's Catholic Youth Organization has gotten into the act. Initially, the youth helped with planting shrubs around the statue and basic landscaping.
However, one member, Kirsten Gambrell, realized that land adjacent to the garden and next to LOVE's Kitchen could be used as a food source for the soup kitchen.
Gambrell and other CYO members met on the church grounds each Sunday afternoon for a study group and decided to apply for a Chevron/Community Pride/Extension Grant to develop a vegetable garden for the soup kitchen.
The CYO and the study group won the grant and worked with Lauderdale County Extension Service Agent Steve Strong and church members to plant an early fall vegetable garden of turnips and mustard greens.
Group plans
Gambrell is currently a student at Xavier University. However the study group continues to maintain the area for the soup kitchen, with plans for a spring garden.
When the Meditation Garden Committee decided to expand the garden to 20th Street with more flower beds, including a Southern hardy rose garden bed, they applied for a Keep America Beautiful Youth Grant to supplement the cost
Once the grant was received, the committee and CYO met to discuss the project. One CYO member, Andrew Gambrell, the brother of Kirsten, wanted to build mosaic benches around the pecan tree from recycled doors as part of his Eagle Scout project.
The project was approved.
On the first Saturday in October, Andrew was assisted by St. Patrick Catholic Church Troop 7 and leaders Jack Huntley and Jeff Schoeneck, as well as Judy Dohan, a master gardener from St. Paul Episcopal Church, in building the Southern hardy rose garden.