Noah Marks, 6, of Eagle Bridge, N.Y. helps Maddi Nagel as they work together in the Morgan Spring Community Garden on Gage Street in Bennington on Saturday
Noah Marks, 6, of Eagle Bridge, N.Y. helps Maddi Nagel as they work together in the Morgan Spring Community Garden on Gage Street in Bennington on Saturday afternoon during the Global Youth Service Day. The Morgan Spring Community Garden provides local food for the community and local food banks. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

BENNINGTON--On Saturday, Americorps VISTA at the Bennington County Regional Commission brought together Teens for Change and kids from Mount Anthony Union High School's Youth Ambassador Program for Global Youth Service Day to help prepare the Morgan Spring Community Garden for the year.

Global Youth Service Day was celebrated between Saturday and Sunday by millions of people and thousands of projects across the globe. The annual celebration attracts people to improve their community for the better in some way, big or small.

Members of Americorps VISTA, Mickey McGlasson from the Healthy Community Program and Rachel Schindler from Southwestern Vermont Health Care collaborate with the other area programs because they have direct access to youth.

"The coolest part about working with Americorps has been the chance to collaborate with so many community partners," Schindler said.

Tara Schatz started the community garden behind the tennis courts of the Bennington Recreation Center, 655 Gage St., in 2009 as a Master Gardener Project. McGlasson and Schindler contacted Schatz to coordinate the preparation of the garden with Global Youth Service Day this year.

Schatz originally started the garden because there were no food-related gardening projects in Bennington. "I think the garden promotes healthy and vibrant communities," Schatz said. "Just getting out here together, even if we aren't growing food, is pretty fabulous. Getting together around growing food is even better."

Twenty of the 200-square-foot garden plots are used by the Kitchen Cupboard food pantry, which is a part of the Vermont Foodbank, providing local organic produce to those on food assistance. Other plots are used by the Boy Scouts of America, and for adult education at the recreation center. The rest of the plots are for Bennington residents who wish to grow their own produce but do not have space at home.

"Bennington has a very high number of people who are food insecure," said McGlasson. "A lot of that community is geographically close to this garden ... so giving people that live around it a chance to eat what grows here is a really meaningful cause for the community."

Two young MAU women from the Youth Ambassador Program at the Alliance for Community Transformations do community service jobs to promote better health in the Bennington Community.

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Butler said she would rather be helping scape the community garden than "just hanging out with friends" on a warm Saturday morning. "I like helping out in the community by making it look better," she said. "By working on this garden we are helping people eat that aren't able to. Being able to help people really feels good."

Eighteen-year-old Mariah Armstrong said she doesn't expect anything in return for getting on her hands and knees, moving dirt around. "I like to do community service activities," she said. "I joined Youth Ambassadors so I could find more things to do. It's hard to find (community service projects) on your own."

There are limited raised beds available at the garden for seniors. The rest of the plots are 10 feet by 20 feet, each costing $20 for the season plus a $5 deposit. Contact Schatz at (802) 442-2553 or morganspringcg@gmail.com to obtain an application for a plot.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg