Monday, December 5, 2011

A Legacy: the Patricia Haney Reading Garden

FNFCG is dedicating December to hearing from the community gardens in our area. The following story was sent in by Sandra Kessler, sharing with us the wonderful garden at Arlington Elementary School and the partnership with Arlington United Methodist Church which makes it possible. 

The Adopt a School Task Force of Arlington United Methodist Church in Jacksonville recently installed a Reading Garden at Arlington Elementary School in memory of Pat Haney, a former teacher and church leader.  A dedication ceremony was held involving members of the church, representatives from the Pat Haney Bible Study Class, faculty members and all of the second graders.  Remarks were given by Pastor Larry Shields and School Principal Paula Smith.  Captain Jack Haney, retired Navy Chaplain and Pat Haney’s husband, spoke to the children explaining how much his wife enjoyed reading and working with children.  Several second-graders read letters thanking Arlington United Methodist Church for the beautiful reading garden and other services provided by church members.  Members from the church choir sang a song selected by Pat Haney’s daughter, Debbi Weida.

Arlington Elementary School places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of reading.  The reading garden provides benches surrounded by beautiful flowers and landscaping where children can enjoy reading outdoors by themselves or with other students and teachers.   Many church members were involved in the completion of the garden including the Youth Group, Wayde Quisenberry who developed the landscaping, Marvin Bailey who built the benches, and Rev. Larry Shields who made a sign for the garden.  Donations in memory of Pat Haney were used to pay the garden materials which is planted with camellias and pentas.

Three years ago, members from Arlington United Methodist Church planted a vegetable garden at the school as a teaching tool.  The garden has been replanted several times with a variety of vegetables.  Currently the garden has banana peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, crookneck squash and okra   Volunteers and teachers make certain the garden is watered and weeded.  Lazarus Jaji, a Master Gardner and member of Arlington United Methodist Church, will be mentoring several children weekly on vegetables, plants and the overall care needed for a thriving garden.

Arlington United Methodist Church has been a community partner with Arlington Elementary School for the past three years.  To visit the garden, contact the Arlington Elementary School office at (904) 745-4900.  All visitors to the school must first obtain volunteer clearance from the Duval County School Board.  To obtain permission to visit the school, go online to, then  to community, then to volunteer, then to volunteer apply online and answer all the questions. Submit your application to the Duval County School Board.  For more information on Arlington United Methodist Church’s involvement with the school, contact Sandra Kessler, Chair of the Adopt-a-School Task Force at 635-9240 or email: