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Elevating the Community Gardens at Project: Elevate!

By Aaron Michael -

We are excited to share the unfolding for the Project: Elevate community gardens that I provided Project Management for. With the help of hardworking volunteers, in just two days we transformed a drab courtyard to an inspirational garden space!

We had the honor of being referred by the Colorado Garden Foundation to The Empowerment Program's Project: Elevate community garden project. Denver, Colorado-based The Empowerment Program's programming removes barriers to health, housing, education and employment so their participants can take the steps they need to achieve their goals. Project: Elevate is a collaborative endeavor between The Empowerment Program and the City and County of Denver. The collaboration represents an innovative, research-based program model that is trauma informed and gender responsive for women with increasingly complex needs. What many know as the term as a "halfway house", Project: Elevate enables Denver women with criminal justice involvement to return and thrive in their home community.

"Before" photos of the site.

Meeting onsite in March, I became familiar with The Empowerment Program and Project: Elevate. The site, their rear courtyard, was just concrete, landscape rocks, tan crusher fines, and picnic benches. Cass Harris, Director of Services for Project: Elevate, wanted the look and feel of an abundant, secret garden, as well as a zen rock garden. Cass and The Empower Program's Executive Director, Julie Kiehl's wants and needs were heard, and afterwards, I created a Conceptual Garden Plan to reflect their vision. They loved it! "This looks awesome!!!", said Julie. "This is great!", said Cass. The Conceptual Garden Plan included seven raised garden beds, a zen rock garden, and a pollinator garden.

Earth Love Gardens Landscape Design
The Conceptual Garden Plan

63 redwood boards in preparation for the project!

Through my Project Management, I made it easy for our client to be rest assured that the project would be planned based on my expertise. All the work was done for them, including ordering the correct amount of soil, mulch, rocks, wood, and all other elements. The Empowerment Program would just need to recruit additional volunteers, as well as gather some extra tools for the project, and the hardworking, giving volunteers provided everything we needed.

Two days were planned for the installation of the project. During the first volunteer day on Thursday, April 27th, we went right to work. The volunteers were hardworking and efficient, and we actually completed most of the work on the first day. In just one day, we made seven garden beds! It goes for show what is possible when people work together for a great cause. Also on this first day, the existing crusher fines were removed where the zen rock garden would be. For the pollinator garden, the existing rocks were moved to next add mulch.

On day two, volunteers went right to work again. The zen rock garden was filled with the squeegee rocks. A 1200 pound boulder was perfectly put into place in the corner of the zen rock garden by a forklift and a few very strong volunteers The pollinator garden was filled with mulch and surrounded with rock cobbles. We added a beautiful cast-cement birdbath as a finishing touch. The gallery below features the "after" photos of the project. Next, will be to add plants during planting season in late May.

The Empowerment Program's Project: Elevate garden is truly inspiring. It will be a rich transformational, supportive, inspiring resource for the residents of Project: Elevate and beyond. As soon as we finished, one of the volunteers, Zoey, offered to provide a "circle" for the residents and volunteers. Together, we talked about nature and the ecosystem and learned how to make compost tea; which we then further enriched the new garden beds with.

Zoey facilitating a "circle"

Allowing all those in connection with these gardens to thrive, the effects of these gardens will continue to ripple positively in the world.

We would love to provide Project Management, Garden Beds, and/or a Landscape Design for your organization or home as well! Visit us at to learn more about how we can make your garden and dreams of a joyful, harmonious, loving world come true!

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