Thief steals plants from St. Patrick school's community garden

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Gina Duwe
Thursday, May 29, 2014

JANESVILLE--The vegetable plants were just settling into their new community garden home when someone plucked them out overnight and took off.

Staff and teachers showed up at St. Patrick Catholic School in Janesville's Fourth Ward on Thursday morning to find the plants in their new garden dug up and stolen.

“Every last one,” Principal Kenneth Colle. “They were nice enough to leave all the tags of what they were.”

Colle planted the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other plants Sunday and had planned to get more Thursday night, he said. Staff and students planned to work on the garden in spring and fall, and the fruits of their labor were to be donated to the residents of the House of Mercy homeless shelter across the street.

“They were going to be able to come over and take care of it” in summer, Colle said of the residents. “Whatever produce comes from it was for them to use.”

A school family donated the money to start the garden as a memorial to a family member, said Tara Debilzen, a second and third grade teacher.

“It was pretty disappointing,” she said.

The raised garden beds sit next to the playground, and a locked fence surrounded the area. Colle called a contractor to fix part of the fence, but he couldn't tell whether it had been damaged from the garden thief or in a different incident.

“I'm more upset about the plants--simple little things,” he said. “We had a whole lot of kids working on it and volunteers. At least it's (the garden) not done. At least they didn't wait until it was all finished.”

The school's outside security cameras do not cover the garden, he said.

“I just hope they didn't throw them away,” he said.

He vowed to continue with the garden, which will be an annual project.

“Every year, we'll make it a little better,” he said.

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