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Community Partnership

Champion for Community

Ashley Collins, Indianapolis Region

Growing and donating from her community garden

A family tradition of gardening and the desire to carry on a legacy inspired Ashley Collins, Old National Insurance Account Executive, to start a unique project in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

Ashley and her husband, Brandon, started "Sumner's Garden" in early 2011 and donated nearly 1,100 lbs of the produce they grew (including tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, potatoes, green beans and watermelons) to members of the community and primarily the Mary Rigg Community Center. The Mary Rigg Food Pantry served approximately 100 families a month last year, and Sumner’s Garden supplied nearly all of the fresh produce in the pantry.

Says Ashley about the garden’s beginning, "My father-in-law died two days before my daughter was born. My husband and I really wanted to do something that was service-oriented to carry on his legacy. Brandon's family is from Knox County (Indiana) and gardening was always part of their lives.” So the Collins decided to start a community garden and named it in honor of their young daughter, Sumner.

They were able to obtain the land for their garden through The Indy Land Bank. This program acquires abandoned, tax delinquent and other problem properties within Marion County and makes them available to nonprofit and for profit developers. Ashley and Brandon were given a five-year lease on the property at no cost. Their lot is located just a few blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Last year, children in the neighborhood sometimes came to visit and helped when Ashley and Brandon were working in the garden. "I was amazed to learn that these kids didn't even know that potatoes grew in the ground!" Ashley said. "We taught about a dozen neighborhood kids that food comes from the earth. . .not a can.”

Says Ashley, “For me, this garden is a way to reach out to a community that is statistically more likely to suffer from obesity, hypertension and diabetes due to their economic status. We’re teaching more than gardening. We’re teaching science. We’re teaching health, and we’re helping members of the community learn a new skill they can be proud of. Last year, we inspired more than half a dozen neighbors to plant their own gardens.”

In 2012, Sumner’s Garden became a ministry of Southport United Methodist Church. SUMC has become the fiscal agent, enabling Sumner’s Garden to have official nonprofit status and to be eligible for grants and tax-deductible donations. SUMC has also committed funding and is assisting with the volunteer search for this summer’s garden.

Ashley notes that Old National has supported her passion for Sumner’s Garden by providing flexibility to attend to garden needs, while her co-workers have helped in numerous ways, such as obtaining donated items. She adds that additional volunteers, monetary donations and equipment are always needed. To learn more about this special project and how you can help, visit sumnersgarden.com.