PITTSBURG — Local community gardens got a helping hand Monday when Live Well Crawford County stepped up with financial donations to help keep them going strong.

Live Well donated $7,500 from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Pathways Initiative grant to 3 community gardens located in Pittsburg, Frontenac, and Helper. Each were given a part of the money depending on the needs.

Hepler’s Immanuel Lutheran Church Community Garden Volunteer Coordinator Becky Mein said the grant comes as a welcome help to the brand new garden.

“This is our first year with the garden, and it got a little bigger than we expected,” Mein said. “The money we receive will help us build a fence to help keep the deer and rabbits out.”

According to Mein much of the food harvested from their garden goes to the food pantry in Girard.

The Pittsburg Community Garden at First Christian Church is far from new, having been a part of the community for a decade. However, according to head gardner, Matt Troth the years have worn on the garden.

“This funding will help us replace worn out tools, and other gardening things that we need like tomato cages,” Troth said. “We are very grateful for the help from Live Well and all our volunteers.”

Sacred Heart Church’s Community Garden in Frontenac is three years old and harvests food and places it downstairs at the church. Anyone is welcome to go down. Jennifer Merando, whose husband Chris helps run the garden, said many of the people who are helped by the fresh food are elderly and can no longer garden for themselves. She said they plan to use the money to help run a tiller.

Live Well Director Brad Stroud said it’s very important for Live Well to try to support community gardens.

“We hope that community gardens here locally will continue to grow and succeed,” Stroud said. “They make a real difference in the availability of fresh vegetables for families who really need it.”

Stroud said there is a pressing need for fresh fruits and vegetables in the communities.

“We went to a homecoming parade a few weeks ago and were offering fruit instead of candy,” Stroud said. “We got mobbed by kids and one launched a piece of candy out of his mouth just so he could have a banana.

“People really want more of these healthy options and we think community gardens will help fill that gap.”