By Jean Clark
The combination of live gospel music and homemade food brings a dedicated group of followers every two weeks to The Garden in Pleasant Hill. The meeting place is aptly named for its lovely surroundings of trees, bushes and flowers reached through a bedecked trellis beside a shimmering pond. The Garden is a special place of fellowship and exceptional gospel music performed by various artists from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and beyond.
There are two programs on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month beginning in April and going through the middle of October. The first group starts at 4 p.m. Food is served at 5 p.m., and the second set of musicians perform at 6 p.m. There is no charge for the food or music, but an unobtrusive box for love offerings allow visitors to share in this special mission.
The Garden is a labor of love built and managed by Monica and Ray Henson. This couple grew up in Florida, childhood sweethearts, married just out of high school and have remained so for 44 years. In 1968, Ray went to Vietnam with the Marine Corps and came back after stepping on a landmine, with injuries to his leg and insides. The Hensons purchased 7 1/2 acres of land west of Main St. in Pleasant Hill in 1983.
Monica has been singing at church events all of her life and with a country band for three years. Ray has learned his building skills from working all kinds of jobs for years. They had the inspiration to start The Garden in 2002 as a way of giving back to God and uniting the surrounding community with a place to gather. The stage, pavilion, parking lots, pond and restrooms have been built primarily by them and a few friends on their property just below their home. The recent addition of side walls has helped to protect participants from inclement weather.
Tables surround the pavilion, donated by a church and fire hall. The music and fellowship are the big draws, but the sharing of food in a family atmosphere is a big plus. Monica prepares most of the meals herself with volunteer help and donations from local markets. Benefits, yard sales, baptisms, weddings, dedications, reunions and revivals are held here by the community. The Hensons are well known in Pleasant Hill, helping to organize the spring Pleasant Hill festivals and on the board of Neighbors Together. Monica is often invited to sing at revivals, worship services and other community events.
This Saturday, July 13, the 4 p.m. group will be Melvin Doss and Victory Lights. The 6 p.m. group will be Royal City. The gospel groups The Gores and the Jenkins Family will appear July 27. Take Hwy. 70 W (Sparta Hwy.) to Pleasant Hill, turn right onto Main St. and head west through town. When you get to the Church of Christ building on the right, on the other side of town, turn right (that's Gennetta Lane) and follow it to the end, eventually to The Garden parking lot. There are signs along the way, but if you have any questions, call Monica at 277-5198.
A vegetarian luncheon will be held at the Earth Heart Center in Pleasant Hill at noon Wednesday, July 17. The luncheon will be preceded by a presentation at 10:30 a.m. by Les Bauer from the White Creek Wellness Center on the benefits of a plant-based diet for weight loss, heart and brain health and cancer prevention. There is no charge for the luncheon and presentation, but donations are welcome. Recipes for the vegetarian dishes will be available. RSVP at 287-2826 and leave a message. ***
The Grab thrift shop at 1944 West Main St. in Pleasant Hill will be distributing five complete outfits at no cost for pre-school through 12th grade from July 16 through Aug. 20 in preparation for school. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.