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Every April at the start of Earth Month, the employees at Bigelow Tea’s corporate headquarters prepare their community garden for planting. Installed in 2013, the Bigelow Tea Community Garden is carefully tended by a team of dedicated employee volunteers, known as the “Green Team,” who nurture, weed, water, and harvest an assortment of vegetables from April through October. All of the produce grown in the garden is donated to the local Bridgeport Rescue Mission, which serves the homeless and underprivileged population in Bridgeport and Coastal Connecticut.
It is a tradition that Cindi Bigelow, President & CEO of Bigelow Tea, looks forward to every year. “It’s an incredible act of service, and truly a labor of love for our employees,” says Bigelow. “Every vegetable is grown by their own hands and donated to our local shelter in order to provide healthy, nutritious meals to those in need within the community.”
The enthusiastic team of employee gardeners sow seeds for cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and other various vegetables in the custom-built garden beds behind the Bigelow Tea headquarters. In its first year, the garden yielded 141lbs of produce, exceeding the team’s expectations. Since then, Bigelow Tea’s Green Team has donated over ¾ of a ton of produce to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, all of which has been grown entirely within the small urban garden.
“Every year we look forward to the fresh produce donations we receive from the team at Bigelow Tea,” says Frank Williams, CEO of the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. “We know the amount of time and effort that goes into growing these donations. Thanks to their generosity, we can provide healthy, nutritious meals to those we serve. Now more than ever, the support of those within the community is vital to continuing our mission in light of the past year’s challenges.”
This year, Bigelow Tea hopes to increase their crop through various upgrades to the Community Garden, such as deepening the garden beds to allow for better root systems for the produce. In addition, there are plans to utilize a rain barrel to aid with watering the plants, using repurposed rainwater to reduce water usage. The team is even installing a bee house nearby to encourage pollination and increase the local bee population. One of the more recent garden improvements has been using fresh compost in the garden beds. The Green Team hopes that through these improvements, they will be able to grow stronger, healthier plants with a more bountiful crop, thus increasing this year’s donation.
“As we all know, it’s been a tough year for a lot of non-profits due to the ongoing pandemic,” says Bigelow. “This is just one small way that we can assist an organization within our community who has continued to support our most vulnerable populations during these unprecedented times. We are so proud to support the Bridgeport Rescue Mission in their incredible efforts to provide healthy meals to those in need within our local community.”
In addition to the annual produce donation, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission is also one of twenty-three local charities supported by the Annual Bigelow Tea Community Challenge 5k Road Race. Winding its way through scenic Southport, the BTCC attracts on average 700 participants each year and features a 5k run, 3k walk and kids fun run. Last year’s run went fully virtual due to restrictions related to the pandemic. This year’s run, the 34th annual BTCC, is scheduled for Sunday, September 26th and is anticipated to be a live in-person event, following all safety precautions and protocols as set by the CDC and State of Connecticut.
Whether it is through the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge or their Community Garden, Bigelow Tea remains steadfast in their support of local non-profits. “The need didn’t disappear when COVID arrived,” says Bigelow. “In fact, it magnified the needs within our community. We have charities like the Bridgeport Rescue Mission counting on us, and we are not going to let them down. We are proud to support local non-profits within our community however we can, even if it is just one tomato at a time. Our small efforts can add up to a big impact.”
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