MERIDEN — A statue of the Virgin Mary overlooks the quarter-acre yard and home at 17 North St.
The Del Buono family, who donated the home and land to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church 21 years ago, was surprised when the Archdiocese of Hartford returned it last year.
The archdiocese used the property to house the priests and nuns at the church across Lewis Avenue, but the absence of clergy and nuns in recent years eliminated the need.
The family was undecided over what to do with the house and land, but the owner’s daughter, Catherine Del Buono, wanted to continue to allow the community to benefit.
“This is the house I grew up in,” she said. “My mother always had a garden.”
Del Buono, an artist and community organizer, formed a non-profit organization called Our House Meriden to start an after-school program for local children featuring art classes and a community garden.
On June 15, Our House Meriden will host a community garden event to build garden boxes and plant vegetables. The rain date is June 22. Sign-up is free and open to “anyone who wants to be a part of it,” Del Buono said.
Marina Del Buono, Catherine’s mother, and her brother, Antonio Maina, both longtime gardeners, will help participants build garden boxes and plant vegetables in the side yard.
“We wanted this to be used for the community,” Marina Del Buono said. “This year we help them plant, maybe next year they can plant themselves.”
Refreshments will be available. To offset costs, Catherine Del Buono secured a grant from Constellation Energy and donations from other businesses and organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, Target, Lyon & Billard, Home Depot and LaRosa Construction.
Del Buono plans to begin the free arts classes this fall with students from John Barry School and expand to other schools in 2020, she said.
“At Our House Meriden, we believe the creative process- including gardening- can be a life-changing experience and a great way to influence kids from our community and in my old childhood home,” Del Buono said.
Our House of Meriden Board of Directors include: Del Buono, Teresa Figliomeni, Paola Maina, Marina Del Buono, Denise Lopez Sawyers, Elaine Neville, and Orice Jenkins.