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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Youth group gives gift of gardening to communities in need

The Helping Ninjas teach others how to learn to garden to grow their own food for cheaper - and healthier - dining options.

INDIANAPOLIS — We've had some beautiful weather lately, but instead of spending time at the swimming pool, several kids spent time helping their community and planet.

They planted their own community garden outside Martindale Church of Christ on the city's near north side.

It's part of the Helping Ninjas' goal to help others learn how to garden and grow their own food to have more healthy options.

The group partnered with another youth group at Martindale Church of Christ. Together, they planted organic tomatoes, herbs, flowers, peppers and melons.

And the kids say it's a lot of fun, too!

Leo Berry and his mom, Lindsey Berry, started the group Helping Ninjas several years ago in their backyard. At the time, they were just growing their own food and donating to shelters and pantries in need. Leo is just as on board with the group as his mom and also understand why it's important.

"We started this project because we believe everyone should have access to fresh food," he said.

Alexis Miller is also a member of Helping Ninjas.

 "Yeah, it's really nice just to help out the community and overall, I like planting. I think it's really fun," Miller said.

Lindsey said teaching communities why they plant is just as important as giving them the healthy foods they need.

"Food deserts are facing new hardships since coronavirus, and Helping Ninjas want to grow gardens in areas that families are facing food shortages in our state," Lindsey said. "We believe that everyone should have access to fresh food, means to grow, including education." 

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The group of volunteers travels around central Indiana, teaching youth groups, churches and neighborhoods how to plant their own gardens and reap the benefits of fresh produce.

The gardens are 100 percent organic from soil to seed, and each plant and flower planted has a purpose.

"For the past three years, we've been growing food for local food pantries and donating the herbs and tomatoes," Lindsey said. "In fact, one year we grew over 400 pounds of tomatoes, and we were able to give that to Second Helpings.''

All of the produce grown in the gardens will go to the community where the garden is planted,to help feed families and engage youth.  

Kylee Pagan is one of the volunteers.

"To give back, I mean teaching kids universal doesn't matter where you live or what you look like. It's a team effort, and it's community based and in order to be in your community, you have to have positive people to influence changes and bring love back together," Pagan said.

This garden cost Helping Ninjas roughly $100. The seeds, flowers, other vegetable plants and herbs were all grown this spring by Helping Ninjas children. Other items were donated, such as tomato cages, fences and equipment.

It costs the community nothing!

Tammy Snipes works with the youth group at Martindale Church of Christ. After an unsuccessful garden season last year, she heard about Lindsey and the Helping Ninjas. She asked her to come and help plant their garden — the Ninjas' first in the inner city of Indianapolis.  

"We just try to go out into the community and make a big difference, which is why we were so glad that Lindsey chose us to help us with our garden," Snipes said. "I just wanted people to know that the children are in the community. They're trying to get out there, they're trying to do something positive. So if you see them, not just my youth group, but other youth groups as well, just kind of encourage these kids to keep going and doing good."

Helping Ninjas is currently looking for communities, organizations and youth groups in food-insecure areas that would benefit from having an organic garden of their own and need help making it happen.

Berry said her group is always looking for their next group to help.

"All materials and supplies will be donated, all costs covered as well as the install of the gardens provide education to the children/families on all aspects of gardens: sustainability, organic gardening methods, nutrition and recipes. And, also help to care for the garden after its install," Lindsey said. "We even have Helping Ninjas youth and families who are eager to volunteer and visit the gardens to help the community and youth involved to maintain, water, weed."

So if you know a neighborhood or community that could use something like this, reach out. Help is only a Ninja away!