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Port Washington painted planters raise awareness of growing produce for needy

Marvin Makofsky, chief vegetable garden executive for Plant

Marvin Makofsky, chief vegetable garden executive for Plant a Row for the Hungry in Port Washington, with a large planter that's brimming with vegetables that's been painted by a local artist in front of North Hempstead Town Hall on June 22, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

A large round flowerpot filled with vegetable seedlings and covered in paintings of native birds is newly positioned at the entrance of North Hempstead Town Hall.

Forty-nine other container gardens are scattered throughout Port Washington -- at the Chamber of Commerce office and the library, in front of stores and offices.

The colorful planters serve as reminders for home gardeners to donate extra produce to those in need, said Marvin Makofsky, chief vegetable garden executive for Plant a Row for the Hungry in Port Washington

Produce donations are accepted year-round at Bayles Garden Center in Port Washington. Volunteers deliver the vegetables, fruits and herbs to distribution points, including local churches and synagogues, where they are taken by those in need.

Makofsky, 71, of Manhasset, has operated the program for the past six years and long encouraged people to donate excess produce, but the painted planter idea is new.

Makofsky pitched it to the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce last fall and won its approval. Artists, who donated their time, painted the planters over the winter and the first pots appeared in the community this spring. North Hempstead Town Hall received its planter two weeks ago.

Bobbie Polay, executive director of the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce, said the program has "been very well received" by businesses.

"Plant a Row is locally based and the food that is grown stays in our community for people in need, so we really do want to support that," she said, calling the planters "quite an attraction."

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the program "sang to her" because it combines philanthropy and environmental initiatives while also supporting the arts. The planter at Town Hall was painted by local artist Barbara Silbert.

Makofsky said he started with 25 planters, but since those have been out in the community, requests for others ballooned and he had to find more artists to contribute.

"Frankly, it exceeded anything that anybody could possibly expect," he said.

Those wishing to have a planter installed at their business can request one at Bayles Garden Center for $90, which goes toward offsetting the costs of the soil, plants, signage and delivery. Bayles provides the vegetable seedlings.

The Port Washington Children's Center has two brightly colored planters that were painted by local Girl Scouts.

Center executive director Donna Preminger said the organization has been involved with Plant a Row for the Hungry for about four years.

Besides the two painted pots, the center has a raised garden and about a dozen potted plants that can produce hundreds of pounds of vegetables over a summer.

Many of the center's 200 children care for the vegetables and much of the harvested food is sent home with families in need, she said.

"They're really learning firsthand," Preminger said.

"Besides the wonderful benefit of all the food that's going home to our needy families, our children are really learning."

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