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2090 Emerson Ave Alliance, NE 69301

KAB: St. John’s Greenhouse Coming Together After Delays

Posted Aug 14, 2023 8:32 AM
Keep Alliance Beautiful 

Russ Finch of Greenhouse in the Snow donated a 17 x 102-foot kit in honor of his wife Darlene to St. John’s Lutheran in Alliance, working with Pastor Tim Stadem to line up the project. Though their pastor relocated to a church in Wyoming, a dedicated group began to build the greenhouse about a year ago. Winter snow and spring rain have hampered the project, yet significant progress has been noticeable in recent weeks passing by on Emerson Avenue.

Allen Bright, who runs the fabrication aspect of Greenhouse in the Snow, had given me a heads up about St. John’s when I interviewed him about the business. I thought it would be great to see one of the kits come together and find out why a church would want a greenhouse. My inside connection has been Deb Henzler at the Keep Alliance Beautiful Recycling Center, her husband, Ron, has been part of the construction crew. She reported on developments during July, prompting me to pick a morning to stop by.

Harold Roller, Warner Schulze, Paul Wills and Jerry Tolstedt were shoveling dirt near what will be the entrance as I walked up. Responding to my observations on how the structure was coming along, Jerry paraphrased the reason for the slower than desired pace. “Winter fell like a curtain. Spring flooded this place. May, finally started to work on it,” he said.

Warner’s wife, Michele, has chronicled the progression with photographs of the site on work days. She explained that the hard part was digging post holes for the crooked roof. Snow and rain from winter and spring caved in the north wall that had to be redone.

Michele serves as chairman of the greenhouse board. Maurine Roller (Harold’s wife) is secretary. Michele noted that they have “lots of different people doing different things. We have a board that keeps things going. . . . (the greenhouse) was a generous donation. I hope we can do good by it.” “Russ and Darlene are long time members of St. John’. We accepted Russ’s offer of the greenhouse because it is in (keeping) with the church’s vision of social ministry,” Maurine added.

Alliance has seen new churches built, existing buildings expanded or remodeled and growing congregations move in where others faded. St. John’s endeavor will add a new dimension that will be unique among the local faith community. The four men finishing their digging for the day, gestured to the rectangular footprint, describing what the church expects to grow: eight mini/dwarf trees at the east end such as lemon, lime, orange and fig; cold weather vegetables (broccoli, radishes); vine plants like pumpkins and watermelons; raspberry and other bushes, tomatoes; and flowers that could provide cut flowers for the altar. Harold said there will be a separate crew to take care of it and eventually a paid caretaker. Paul hopes to get the kids involved.

A healthy church thrives on involvement. Numerous ministries draw on individuals’ time, talent and treasure.

Earl and Patricia Jones are on the Community Task Force on poverty and the greenhouse will be used to help alleviate hunger insecurity that exists in Alliance, Maurine said. Produce will be donated to the Community Table with extra produce going to those come to the Table. Produce from the fruit trees will be sold and part of the proceeds will go back to the greenhouse and the

rest will fund scholarships for St. John’s Preschool. “Like the Mission Store that began as an Episcopalian church project and has since become a church wide community project, the hope and dream is that the Greenhouse ministry will become a part of a church wide community effort,” she noted, looking to the future.

Jerry and Michele both offered names that are making this greenhouse a reality, including: Krese Tolstedt, Charlie Lee, Chris Mischnick (he poured the footings), Trent Benzel (sprayed weeds). Steve Benzel used his own smaller front loader to help move some dirt around. Doug Hashman loaned the crew a large backhoe to help with the digging that Scott Taylor also used for the base of the greenhouse and continues to be used for some of the dirt work.

Interim Pastor Megan Morrow has also worked closely with the committee. Ken Wood and Triangle Electric have been hired to assist. Maureen has written grants, including a $10,000 award from the Emmanuel Vision Foundation. They also received a personal donation for that amount.

A greenhouse will be an awesome asset at St. John’s. The structure may also double as a classroom. Michele said Karen Runkel, a master gardener who operated an area commercial greenhouse, wants to teach classes there. Like the Parable of the Sower, time will tell on what type of soil the seeds fall and what will grow in the months and years to come.