Church volunteers, gardeners and neighbors have established Common Ground, both literally and figuratively.
A produce garden is among the summer initiatives at Common Ground Community Center, a cooperative project established and supported by five downtown churches.
The garden's six raised beds are located beside the renovated center at the corner of Clark and East Atchison streets.
The garden is tended and watered by eight volunteers from Grace Episcopal Church, but neighbors are invited participate.
"We invite people to come plant with us," said Virginia Irvin, coordinator of the project. Neighbors also are invited to pick fresh produce for their tables.
The garden fulfills the center's combined practical and spiritual outreach. "I think of the occasions Jesus was involved with somebody," said church member and gardener Ray Evans. "Often food was involved - after his resurrection, on the beach, his first miracle."
The garden is one of a number of initiatives and programs offered by the community center. Others include: a fair trade store; lending library for children's books; sewing classes, financial mentoring; and a self-confidence program for girls.
The community center's goal, according to Director Megan Hilty, is "to develop relationships with people instead of meeting them briefly and sending them on their way."
And, those relationships build connections on a number of levels. "We focus on the whole person - spiritual, emotional, physical, mental," Hilty added. "And programs like the garden fit well."
Building multi-level, long-term relationships is a well-grounded approach for the aptly named Common Ground Community Center.