SUNDERLAND, Md. – For the third consecutive year, Keep Maryland Beautiful has awarded a grant to Project Spudnik to continue its work in this Master Gardener-sponsored program at All Saints Episcopal Church, Sunderland.

Ryan and Jack Dickson-Burke, current and past teen leaders of Spudnik, set bench in Children’s Garden.

To qualify for the Clean Up & Green Up Maryland Grant, Project Spudnik will utilize the $5000 grant for 2021 Spudnik projects, including materials and equipment needed this year to beautify and sustain the main Vegetable, Children’s, Herb and Pollinator Gardens. The gardens are a source for teaching children, youth and adult volunteers environmentally sustainable container gardening, as well as producing vegetables for donation to local food pantries.  Last year they donated 635+ pounds of produce.

Teen and adult volunteers stay physically distanced as they receive instructions on a Spudnik work day at All Saints Episcopal Church.

Fortunately, lots of volunteers helped get the 2020 garden started before we were under COVID restrictions.  For the rest of the growing season, just three families kept the garden flourishing, while staying physically distanced.

Ryan Dickson-Burke is the teen president and primary recruiter for teen volunteers, as well as a key person in planning and organizing the work in the gardens.  Master Gardener Sherrill Munn is the technical advisor.  Other board members include Paul Dickson and Mary Ann Munn.

Teens combine components for soil for Project Spudnik grow bags.

Teens from Huntingtown High School especially enjoy working with Project Spudnik.  Connor Hoffman noted “Spudnik is a great opportunity to help out in the community while having fun with friends.”  Joey Williams, who designed the Spudnik logo, said “It allows me to socialize while helping the environment.”  Caydin Edelman agrees that “Spudnik is a great way to meet with friends and relieve stress.”

Master Gardener Sherrill Munn demonstrates to Jack Dickson-Burke and Dennis Laurie how to plant the garden’s new strawberry towers.

One of the young volunteers, Evelyn McCauley, 12, Sunderland, said “Volunteering for Spudnik has helped me grow (pun intended) not only in gardening but with living as a person.  Before I started, I was mostly chilling and playing all day on the computer, then I started Spudnik. It changed everything; I really enjoy going outside playing around, but also growing things.  Every year we grow more and more food for people who can’t get it from the store. I really think that it has helped me grow as a person.”  For the last 2 years, Evelyn raised the most potatoes by weight of all volunteers.

Evelyn McCauley admires Spudnik’s first corn crop 2020.

The Maryland Environmental Trust in partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Forever Maryland Foundation presents four Keep Maryland Beautiful grants yearly. Grants through this program help volunteer-based, nonprofit groups, communities and land trusts in Maryland support environmental education projects, litter removal, citizen stewardship, as well as protect natural resources in urban and rural areas.