Growing interest by Rotarians brings new life to untended school garden

Rotary Club member Cori Christensen digs weeds and clears brush that had invaded the garden at Kyrene del Cielo Elementary School. — Photo courtesy Rotary Tempe Downtown

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shutdown of schools in Tempe and West Chandler, the last thing on anyone’s mind was the condition of campus gardens.

A year later, when students were back in school and millions of Arizonans were vaccinated, members of three Rotary clubs, alongside their non-Rotarian friends, attacked the tangle of weeds and brush that were choking the garden at Kyrene del Cielo in West Chandler.

For 2½ hours, the volunteers worked hard to re-establish four garden beds and clear the overgrown paths leading to them.

It was all part of the Rotary District 5495 Week of Service.

Marni Anbar, of the Rotary Tempe Downtown Club, said that Cielo Principal Tammy Thaete was among those who rolled up her sleeves to help get the job done.

Also on hand were members of the Gilbert Rotary Club; Laurel Gwilliam, a fourth-grade teacher at Cielo; Nicole Leonardi of the Cielo Parent Teacher Organization; Dan Leonard of Cielo staff, and Dave Kurckhard of the Rotary Tempe Downtown Club.

“Our mission is to work together to maintain and expand the Cielo garden so that it can be fully utilized by the school community,” Anbar said.

“We will be doing this through regular clean-up and planting days, as well as working collaboratively with master gardeners from the Maricopa County Cooperative Extension, the Kyrene School District and the Cielo PTO to plan and fundraise for maintenance and expansion.”

Anbar said a Rotary Community Corp was formed that consists of members of area Rotary clubs plus non-Rotarians, working together under the Rotary umbrella to maintain Cielo’s garden and keep it ready for learning once school resumes in August.

For those less inclined toward the intensities of outdoor gardening, volunteers from Rotary and the community worked at a home near Cielo to assemble 220 feminine hygiene packs for homeless and low-income women served by Tempe Women 4 Women, along with 26 kits for the Justa Center.

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