July 1, 2014 10:22 pm
Updated: July 1, 2014 10:55 pm

WATCH: Community garden replaces torched soup kitchen


WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton soup kitchen burned to the ground last fall. Vinesh Pratap shows us the garden that has replaced it.

EDMONTON – A community garden has brought new life to a central Edmonton property ravaged by two fires last fall.

On October 19, 2013, a fire badly damaged the House of Refuge Mission, a soup kitchen in central Edmonton’s Boyle Street neighbourhood. On November 1st, 2013, a second fire levelled the building on the corner of 103A Avenue and 95 Street.

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Thim Choy owned the building, and for years allowed the Mission to operate in it.

“I know how it is like to be poor. I know how it is like to be hungry,” Choy says.

“It’s always good to have a full tummy. That really helps a lot of people in this neighbourhood.”

Feeling strongly that the Mission’s work should continue, Choy offered up the parking lot of his business across the street. For two hours every night, Mission workers hand out food from the back of vehicles.

“We’re here every night ever since the Mission burned down, and we don’t have any other location,” said Bob Vandergrift with the House of Refuge Mission. “The property we were at has been rezoned.”

In the aftermath of the fire, Choy sought to rebuild for the Mission. However, the structure was under-insured and changes in zoning have created complications. In the meantime, Choy, who is also the president of the Boyle Street Community League, opened up the empty lot as a community vegetable garden. “In our good old Chinese custom, when there is a fire the ground must be very hot. Then the ground is very hot, it’s going to bring in a good crop the next year,” he said.

The garden is open to anyone.

“If someone wanted to, they could come along and put some vegetables down. And whoever plants the goods, they can take their own,” said Manon Aubry, who works with the community league.

“We expect that some people might take some vegetables that might not be their own, but if you’re hungry, what are you gonna do?”

Choy hopes the garden adds life to the neighbourhood.

“I think it’s a good philosophy to upkeep that garden,” Choy says. “Maybe someday, if I’m not allowed to build in that location, I might turn it into a park.”

© 2014 Shaw Media

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