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Central Reform Congregation

Traffic Calming Project on Waterman deserves a closer look

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Though I’ve traveled the 5000-5200 blocks of Waterman countless times, I never thought to ask who was behind the copious plantings that beautify the two blocks from Kingshighway to Union. That stretch of Waterman is home to an eclectic mix of uses, including institutions (Central Reform Congregation, First Unitarian Church and New City School), as well as condominiums, apartment buildings, and single family homes. All are enhanced by an equally eclectic mix of plantings that bloom from February through mid-October.

Waterman is also home to the CWE Farm, which provided the inspiration for long-time resident Tom Brackman, below left, to begin beautifying the street 6 years ago after the awarding of a Federal grant for a Traffic Calming Project he applied for on behalf of the Waterman/Lake Special Business District. Speeding had been an issue for years, but after the installation of the circle close to Kingshighway, above, planters mid-block, and another planter in the center of the street close to Union, drivers were forced to slow down.

Those planters, as well as the infrastructure supporting them, were also paid for by the grant, with additional support from the City of St. Louis and the Waterman/Lake SBD which contributed matching funds.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman, a retired lawyer who owns seven properties on the street, volunteers his services. Lisa Wells, right, one of Brackman’s tenants and his partner in this effort, is hired by the Waterman/Lake SBD to plant, maintain, and water the plant materials. “It’s extremely rewarding and therapeutic work,” she said.

Brackman credits his late partner, a Missouri Botanical Garden employee, for teaching him about plant materials and nurturing his love of gardening.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

The photos above and below show one of two matching planters mid-block. The late Bob Cassilly’s designs are incorporated into the base of the planters. Cassilly’s signature design is also used on the planters that can be found in the medians on Forest Park Parkway and 5100-5200 Delmar.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman has donated many of the plants, but when he and Wells need more he said they look for bargains. “Everything we buy is cheap,” he said, “in the range of 25 cents — we look for plants that are on sale.”

They are also careful to choose durable plants that need less water, and they increase their yield by dividing many of them, such as hostas, daisies, and snow-on-the-mountain.

A couple of years ago Operation Brightside donated 10,000 daffodil bulbs, which Brackman and Wells dig up after the spring bloom and store Brackman’s basement to be planted again in the fall.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Large urns at the busy corner of Kingshighway and Waterman contain a mixture of plants including sun-loving cannas and caladiums.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

When 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro donated a tree to be planted in a tree well in front of the CWE Farm, Brackman was inspired to paint the fire hydrant next to it, above left. Next he painted the hydrant at Lake and Waterman to assist in making that intersection a “plaza area.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman and Wells were also given the okay by the Oxford Condominium board to plant and maintain several daylily beds at Waterman and Union, above.

“Whenever Lisa or I are working on the gardens, neighbors and passers-by tell us how much they like the plantings and thank us for beautifying the street. That makes the work very gratifying,” Brackman said. “And it has changed the whole mentality of people driving along the street, now they seem to enjoy the view instead of speeding through.” He estimates that cars are traveling 15 mph slower than before the Traffic Calming Project was put in place, a successful outcome for a job beautifully well done.

Founders of CWE Farm publish “A Gift Garden”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

“It’s best to take the picture while we’re harvesting,” Arthur Culbert said, as he and his wife Nancy were hurriedly picking the last of the summer’s bounty grown at the CWE Farm to benefit neighborhood food pantries. With the first frost in the forecast, there was little time to pose for photos the morning I visited to learn more about the couple’s new book, A Gift Garden. The illustrated book, which the Culberts have been working on for the past 2 years, was inspired by their experience working with all the 4th graders who have participated in the “Citizens Making a Difference” curriculum at New City School.

The book launch is scheduled for this Monday, December 10, at The Mahler Ballroom (more information follows).

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

Photos above: Arthur Culbert and 4th grade students at New City School.

Arthur started the CWE Farm 8 years ago on a vacant lot in the 5000 block of Waterman (just west of Kingshighway). Over the past 7 growing seasons the farm has produced approximately 16,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables for food pantries at Trinity Episcopal Church and Second Presbyterian Church. Tying the farm’s mission to eliminate hunger in the community to a program for neighborhood school children where they learn where food comes from, how to plant and grow it for those less fortunate to enjoy, was a brilliant idea and what inspired the Culberts to write A Gift Garden.

“We hope that the book will inspire others and initiate a movement working together towards eliminating hunger,” said Nancy, who co-authored the book aimed at a 4th grade reading level and up. They were able to work almost every vocabulary word that New City School 4th graders learn into the story. Arthur added that Nancy brought a magical touch to the writing.

The Culberts, who have been married for 11 years, have backgrounds in the public health arena. Arthur was dean of a public health program in Boston for 31 years before moving to St. Louis 13 years ago, and Nancy recently retired after 16 years as the Director of Student Services at the College for Public Health & Social Justice at SLU.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

Central Reform Congregation and First Unitarian Church, which are neighbors of the CWE Farm, contribute vegetables from their own gardens to the CWE pantries as well. Together they have contributed an additional 1400 pounds of produce. Generous “alley” neighbors from Westminster Place have also joined the effort by contributing produce from their backyard gardens too.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

December 10, the date of the book launch, coincides with the 70th anniversary of first proclamation of the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights which in Article 25 declares that everyone has a right to food.

In A Gift Garden, 10-year-old Bea, described as a super hero, declares: “Every person has a right to food,” as she and her friends develop a project to help feed the hungry. The book’s characters decide to become citizens making a difference and work toward planning, building and growing a community gift garden.

Tickets for A Gift Garden Book Launch at The Mahler Ballroom, 4915 Washington, $25 (for soft cover book) to $35 (for hardcover edition), include a copy of the book, a CWE Farm signature drink, light hors d’oeuvres, and music. At 7 p.m. there will be a reading by the authors followed by a Q & A led by KMOV reporter Alexis Zotos. Tickets are available on Eventbrite here. A Gift Garden will be available soon at Left Bank Books.

CWE Farm is a non-profit organization. Proceeds from Monday’s book launch benefit Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation.

New & Notable: WeStories & CWE Farm

Meet the founders of WeStories

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater For Children Services Urban Gardens  WeStories Trinity Episcopal Church St. Louis University School of Public Health Second Presbyterian Church PageTurners Laura Horwitz First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert Ariel Tiplet Adelaide Lancaster

A couple of years ago Laura Horwitz, left, and Adelaide Lancaster were walking with their two youngest children in Forest Park and talking about events in Ferguson. They wondered if they really understood what was going on in the lives of families like Michael Brown’s, which led to a discussion about how to talk to your kids about race.

While researching the subject they learned that a majority of white families do not talk about race at all, and that bias starts to surface when white families and the schools their children attend barely mention the subject.

The pair decided to hold a series of focus groups in their homes and invited friends to participate and to bring a friend. Lancaster and Horwitz were surprised by the extremely positive reaction they received following the first 3 meetings. Within days their Google list grew to 80 interested families, and since then 500 families from 64 zip codes in and around St. Louis and Illinois have participated in WeStories (as they call their workshop).  They currently have an additional 500 families on a waiting list.

WeStories uses children’s literature to cause change. Lancaster says, “People would be surprised at what a difference expanding your home library to include books about other races can have.”

WeStories workshops have been held at Fontbonne University, the Missouri History Museum, and St. Louis County Library. Parents with children up to 7 years old take the workshop, then each family receives 4 age-appropriate books and teaching tools to use at home. The cost is $100 per family.

Following the workshops there have been statements such as: “I feel like I was living in a bubble in the suburbs and WeStories has made me feel more proactive and less apathetic.” Lancaster and Horwitz have heard from other parents who have said they felt empowered by their WeStories experience to run for school boards hoping to promote change.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater For Children Services Urban Gardens  WeStories Trinity Episcopal Church St. Louis University School of Public Health Second Presbyterian Church PageTurners Laura Horwitz First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert Ariel Tiplet Adelaide Lancaster

Not surprisingly, CWE’s Left Bank Books carries a large selection of books that are on WeStories recommended reading list. Some of those books are shown above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater For Children Services Urban Gardens  WeStories Trinity Episcopal Church St. Louis University School of Public Health Second Presbyterian Church PageTurners Laura Horwitz First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert Ariel Tiplet Adelaide Lancaster

Those interested in supporting the organization’s efforts are invited to join Page Turners, see above. Click here to learn more.

Thanks to CWEnder Karen Werner for introducing me to Adelaide Lancaster and Laura Horwitz and WeStories. It was heartening to learn what young parents are doing to promote change in St. Louis.

News from CWE Farm:

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater For Children Services Urban Gardens  WeStories Trinity Episcopal Church St. Louis University School of Public Health Second Presbyterian Church PageTurners Laura Horwitz First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert Ariel Tiplet Adelaide Lancaster

Arthur Culbert, CWE Farmer, invited me to stop by the CWE Farm (located on Waterman west of Kingshighway) in early April to observe New City School 4th graders as they learned about bats. Their instructor, St. Louis University School of Public Health graduate student Ariel Tiplett (with hat in photograph above), was teaching the students how bats navigate by playing a “blind man’s bluff” type of game. Contrary to folklore, bats are not blind, but when they are feeding at night, their large ears allow them to use “echolocution” (sound waves) to navigate in the dark.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater For Children Services Urban Gardens  WeStories Trinity Episcopal Church St. Louis University School of Public Health Second Presbyterian Church PageTurners Laura Horwitz First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert Ariel Tiplet Adelaide Lancaster

Culbert arranged for two bat houses to be hung on a tree adjacent to the CWE Farm. At the time of my visit in early spring, the bats were still dormant. When temperatures reach 70 degrees, they come out of hibernation and start consuming thousands of bugs a night, equivalent to 70% of their body weight. They eat pesky critters like mosquitoes, beetles and other harmful garden bugs.

In other CWE Farm news, Culbert has developed a citizenship curriculum (growing food for the less fortunate) for the Patrick Henry Downtown Academy in Boston, like the one he developed for New City School (click here for earlier post).

The CWE Farm grows produce, photo above right, for two CWE food pantries, at Trinity Episcopal Church at Euclid & Washington and 2nd Presbyterian Church at Westminster & Taylor. This year First Unitarian Church and Central Reform Congregation, both located just east of the farm at the corner of Waterman & Kingshighway, have planted vegetable gardens of their own, and will share the bounty with the same two neighborhood pantries.

If you’d like to volunteer at the CWE Farm this summer, contact urban farmer Arthur Culbert for information, arthur.culbert@gmail.com.