By JOHN DAVENPORT Rochester Lions Club
ROCHESTER — Lions are known for their work with sight and hearing, so why are the Rochester Lions getting their hands dirty in a plot of land on Franklin Street?
Their newest project is a garden that is providing fresh vegetables to Gerry’s Food Pantry. It all started when the local club realized that diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and that a diet filled with fruit and vegetables was one way to prevent the disease. With this fact in mind, Lions adopted diabetes awareness as a long-term commitment. They knew that the cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery but diet and a lack of exercise, appear to be correlated to its diagnosis. The garden project became a way to get high fiber fresh food to people who may lack them because of cost.
The project started in the spring when Sharon Davenport contacted the Rochester School Department and asked for permission to raise vegetables on a plot of school land on Franklin Street. With the School Department’s permission Lions started preparing a 30′ by 30′ plot in April. Members started plants in their homes. Plant donations were made by Martha Whitehouse at the Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center. By May, they were ready to plant. Into the ground went 40 tomato plants, zucchini, summer squash, sweet corn, butternut and acorn squash, and potatoes. Soon the effects of sun and rain could be seen from the street as plants grew and bobbed in the breeze.
Asked about the project, Davenport said, “Approximately two percent of all people who have had diabetes for 15 years become blind, while about 10 percent develop a severe visual impairment. Lions are committed to changing those figures.”
Ralph Brock, who has been a Lion in Rochester for over 50 years, said, “It’s a fun evening to get together with club members and get a little dirt under your nails.”
Jim Brock, treasurer, pointed out that in this economy there are people without insurance who need glasses. He hopes that the Lion project will lower the need for glasses in the long run, and that in the short term people in Rochester will help the Lions by joining and supporting the club. Anyone wishing to join can come to a meeting on the first Wednesday of the month at the Rochester Library in the meeting room on the top floor. They can also call 332-5627 for more information.
Now that a frost is just around the corner, the Lions Club is about to harvest the last fruits of their project. The summer squashes are all picked and some of the tomatoes still have a few green fruits. The pumpkins and winter squash are ready. The Lions Club is about to show that a diet to fight diabetes is one that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. In fact, it’s the best eating plan for everyone.