David and Rita Penner share coffee and talk about the cancelled 2020 Relief Sale and how it affected them as a robin flits in and out of their garden, catching insects to fill the little beaks popping out of a custom nesting box on their deck.
David and Rita Penner’s garden cascades in glorious waves of colour down from the deck toward Half Moon Lake near Sherwood Park. The couple is well known for having ‘green thumbs’, and many people enjoy the results of their work. Neighbours stop by to admire the flowers or ask for fresh herbs. Wedding photos happen among the plants and trees, various groups use the deck area for coffee and meetings and artists have come to paint on site.
Every 3rd year, when the Alberta MCC Relief Sale is held in Sherwood Park, there is a table full of bedding out plants, annuals and perennials, organized and largely stocked courtesy of the Penners and their love of sharing their garden. The cancellation of this year’s sale meant there was a living room full of plants with no place to go.
Early in the Spring of 2020, the Penners set up a grow light in their upstairs living room and planted numerous seeds and cuttings in preparation for the Sale which was to happen on May 22-23.
When asked how many plants they had, Rita said; “I wish I could say it was 100 … the magic number this year, but we didn’t count.”
When it became obvious the Sale would be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to come up with a plan for all those plants. “We were so disappointed we couldn’t do it for MCC, so we decided we would have a yard sale and donate the money,” Rita said. She posted a sale notice on the community Facebook page and put a sign out by the road two days before the sale. In the close community, word of mouth took care of the needed advertising. “Our neighbourhood doesn’t know about MCC,” Rita said, but they liked that the money would go to charity. The sale was an opportunity to let them know about the good work being done by MCC. The Penners gave free plants to children and talked about what MCC does around the world. Neighbours responded. Some made donations even though they didn’t need plants. Others threw in a bit of extra cash after paying for what they wanted. Rita was impressed that even young parents, who likely had little discretionary money, would toss in extra money in order to support a good cause.
At the end of the day, the plants were gone, and with a bit of a top-up from the Penners, $1000 went to the GO!100 campaign, MCC’s event to replace needed revenue the Relief Sale would have brought in. Through matching funds donated by Flaman Fitness and the Penner family in Calgary (no relation), the plant sales grew to equal $2000 worth of funding for the relief, water, sanitation and hygiene work that is so needed right now.
The garden that feeds the Robins in 2020 will also feed and comfort the world.