Retail Construction Services, Inc. is dedicated to giving back.

We give back not only to those in need within our community, but also the future generations of this wonderful community. What started out as a great idea has grown exponentially and has become an amazing reality. Here at the RCS Giving Garden, school groups, master gardeners, corporate volunteers, and our own employees work together for the common good of teaching children the art of gardening and the importance of healthy eating. Click Here for Full Story.

Retail Construction Services, Inc.
11343 39th Street N.
Lake Elmo, MN 55042

From HWY 36 - go south on Lake Elmo Ave, turn left onto 39th Street, garden is at corner of 39th and Laverne.
From HWY 5- going west from Stillwater take right onto Laverne (near Fury dealership) garden is on the right at corner of Laverne and 39th street.

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The RCS Giving Garden

The RCS Giving Garden


Challenge from RCS to You...

On July 28th I received a call from Cara McLain, Food Shelf Program Director at Valley Outreach.  They had set a new daily record and had distributed over 4,000 lbs of food to families in need.  As Marna Canterbury, Executive Director of United Way Washington County East eloquently put it this afternoon "These are not the kind of records we want to be setting".

In speaking with Executive Director Kate Krisik today, Valley Outreach has been giving out between 45,000 to 50,000 lbs of food a month.

Our challenge to our volunteers, garden students, corporate sponsors, corporate volunteers... please do whatever you can to help Valley Outreach.   

Do you have a home garden or community garden that has excess produce?  Are your neighbors no longer needing your gifts of zucchini and tomatoes?  Valley Outreach and other food shelves would love to take them off of your hands....

I've contacted local media as well, and hopefully, we can bring to light the desperate need for donations during the summer.  If the 4,000 lb day is any indication, the need is substantial.
Valley Outreach
Phone: 651-430-2739
1911 Curve Crest Blvd. West
Stillwater, Minnesota 55082

 In an email from Marna this afternoon, I share the following:

"...... It is heartbreaking that person or families resources are so scarce that they struggle to have enough food, and  go hungry. It is a most basic human need and the demands on our local Valley Outreach food shelf are growing tremendously.

We have seen that hunger is often a barometer of the rising needs under the surface for our neighbors who are struggling. The people and families experiencing hunger and turns to a food shelf often come with multiple other needs. Underlying issues including housing, chronic illness, or disability, or  the costs of health care can drain a person’s resources…leaving them financially unstable, and also hungry.

·United Way supports the needs for food, housing, health care and stability for our neighbors through funding more than 50 essential programs including the important work being done by Valley Outreach. United Way also support:

·        Local volunteer transportation programs to make sure that our elders can access services, or food, even if they cannot drive.

·         Affordable, healthy foods can help stretch the food budgets for all through the Fare for All discounted shopping program every month in Stillwater where anyone can purchase produce and meat products at greatly reduced prices.

The time to reach out to our neighbors is now. Food is needed now. Volunteers are needed for many programs including volunteer drivers so people access services. Financial support is needed to meet all these growing and interconnected needs, with a focus on long term ways to help people have stable lives again."

Marna Canterbury, MS, RD - Executive Director
United Way of Washington County-East
Building Better Lives in Stillwater
and the heart of Washington County

Thank you...

SPIN Kids Set a New 2011 Daily Picking Record --- 66.2 lbs!

L to R:  Laura, Tess, Syndey, Eva and Sophia (Click image to enlarge)
Click image to see enlarge collage...
Today the Stillwater SPIN kids joined us in the garden. We had a smaller class today since they did not have a bus to take to the garden.  I shared with the kids the phone call I received from the food shelf yesterday looking for more food. Valley Outreach Food Shelf had distributed over 4,000 lbs of food on Thursday to families in need, and they were in need of more.  They had received a donation of $900 yesterday afternoon for food, but need more donations to meet the ever growing need.  We were hoping we would have around 60 lbs of fresh produce to donate to them today.

This group, Laura, Tess, Eva, Sydney and Sophia, along with their teachers, Kristen and Tammy work picking produce. The raspberry bushes were so full of Japanese Beetles that we had to skip picking until we can shoo them away this afternoon. Who needs beetle bites? – Not us! The seven raspberries they did harvest made a quick trip to the water for a rinse and then into kid tummies!

The produce picked today included cucumbers, beans, green peppers, banana peppers, lettuce, pea pods, summer squash, and zucchini. The kids had fun with some of the English cucumbers that closely resembled giant smiles… you can see in the photos they were quick to use it for a photo op!

When the picking was done, we headed over to the compost bin. A few weeks ago the ALC High School led a lesson plan on composting. It was fun for the students to be able to see the status of the decomposing waste and how it is turning back into soil. Tess made a comparison between the decomposing compost and animals, humans and other things returning to the soil. What a wonderfully curious and thoughtful group!

Everyone took turns weighing the produce and guessing how much we had picked in total. The guesses ranged between 45 to 60 lbs…. Drum roll please……

This group set the new 2011 daily record by picking 66.2 lbs of produce! Valley Outreach Food Shelf will be very happy when this group stops by to donate their hard work.

Thank you again SPIN kids Laura, Tess, Eva, Sydney, Sophia and their leaders, Kristen and Tammy. We look forward to seeing a full red and white bus pull up to the garden this next Friday with even more kids!

Some interesting numbers to share with everyone: Last year, by this time, we had harvested 53.9 lbs of produce. This year we are already at 386.3 lbs! I think we are on track to make our goal of 3,000 lbs this year!!


Andersen Windows Volunteers in the Giving Garden!

Front L to R: Shelley Wink, Beelian Ong, LeAnn Wakefield
Back L to R: Katie Tjader, Paul Sinz, Dave Krueger
Click to enlarge image
 In the words of William Arthur Ward, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Today we are so grateful to the six volunteers that graced our garden from Andersen Windows. It was a beautiful sunny day, but this group created their own wind storm with their hard work!

They first harvested and weighed the crops. By the way, this group set a new 2011 corporate volunteer record by picking 60lbs of produce in one day! The green and yellow beans were abundant – 14.4 lbs or 24% of the total donation. That’s a lot bean picking! Can you say “full of beans”?

The second activity was building new tomato cages. Our tomato plants have become their own jungle and were growing out of control. The crew from Andersen put wooden stake structures around each tomato plant and secured them with twine. I stepped outside a few times to take photos, talk and see their progress. I enjoyed stepping back and watching not their hard working, but their fluid team work, camaraderie and laughter. What a joy it was to have Shelley, Katie, LeAnn, Beelian, Dave and Paul in the garden today.
(click to enlarge image of tomato cages)
So, the challenge is on for another group of corporate volunteers to pick more that 60 pounds of produce in a day! Not only did they set a new 2011 record, Valley Outreach Food Shelf and their clients reaped the wonderful benefit of food for the next meal.

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us;
what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.
~Albert Pike

Thank you again Andersen Windows for sending this wonderful group to the garden!



New Crops to Harvest & Challenges in the Garden

New crops: Pea Pods, Green Beans, Yellow Beans and Swiss Chard

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.
B.B. King

The St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center students came out to the garden to harvest this morning.  While there were formal lessons in the garden today, there is always something to learn and grow from.  We talked about the challenges the garden is facing;  Japanese Beetles, too much water, too much heat, and powdery mildew.  While we were talking about solutions, student Brian Dickie took the initiative to look up on the Internet via his cell phone our 'curling leaf' problem with some tomato and neighboring plants.  We were given options of too much water or too hot... of which we all kind of laughed that we have had plenty of both!

We had new crops ready today!  The students were able to learn when these crops are ready to pick; yellow beans, green beans, pea pods and Swiss chard!  Other crops picked today were cucumbers, green peppers, banana peppers, lettuce, summer squash, zucchini, and a few raspberries.  Joni talked with the students about being able to make 'chips' out of Kale and Swiss Chard by doing the following:

Kale or Swiss Chard Chips
Wash and pat dry
Break into larger bite size chip pieces
Shake in a bag with olive oil
Sprinkle with sea salt
Bake in a 200 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes until crisp...
Mmmm, Mmmm!


Giving Garden Becomes an Outdoor Classroom!

Morning Class

Afternoon Class
Tom Wendt brought two groups of students out today, a morning and afternoon group.  The students at the St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center were able to utilzed the Giving Garden as an outdoor classroom.  Full story of the classroom lessons will be posted soon!
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
Henry B Adams


Stormy Weather, New Arrivals and Solar!

Click to enlarge photo
The ALC Students arrived early and worked fast to beat the stormy weather that has now opened up on the garden!  They picked cucumbers, lettuce, summer squash and zucchini.  New cops that they just started harvesting today are the raspberries and pea pods! Tom Wendt and the students will be returning on Monday for a food lesson plan in the garden. 

 On the far right of the garden picture you will notice our new solar system being installed next to the garden.  This system will supply our building with power and on the weekends we will be able to sell energy back to Xcel Energy.  We will be doing some educational lessons in the garden on solar power once the system is complete and sharing that information on our blog!


Thank You Card from the Summer Stretch Students!

Today we received a wonderful Thank You card from the Summer Stretch students.  Thank you in return to all of you for your hard work in the garden!  The garden doors are open at any time you want to come back or even bring your families out to share the story of this Giving Garden!


Generous Donation from the Lake Elmo Jaycees!
This week the RCS Giving Garden received an incredibly generous gift from the Lake Elmo Jaycees!  Dawn from our office has had an affiliation with this wonderful organization and had contacted them the garden project.  This past Thursday night the group voted to make a $300.00 donation to our garden.  Words cannot express our gratitude for your generosity and the impact it will make on what this garden can give back not only to the food shelf, but in the lessons it has to teach within our community.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

"We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.
Winston Churchill


ALC "AND" SPIN Students in the Garden!

High School and SPIN Kids together again! (Click photo to enlarge)
The ALC and SPIN Students were in the garden this am with the ALC students taking on the role as mentors to the SPIN students!  There was a lesson plan on composting that the ALC taught the SPIN students.  They relocated our compost bin along with picking produce and garden maintenance projects. 

The final lesson, building a soda bottle bioreactor ((Click here to view the project!)), was one that the students could take back to the classroom or home.

Thank you to both of these wonderful group for joining us in the garden!  We look forward to you sharing pictures of your homemade bioreactors!!!


Summer Stretch Students Return to the Giving Garden!

A second group of students from the St. Croix Summer Stretch Program returned to the garden.  The students learned to harvest strawberries, zucchini and cucumbers.  Unfortunately, the strawberry crop had come to a screeching halt, so the students only had a small taste.  When the crop was picked and weighed, they moved on to the beans and pea pods.  These six rows needed extra stringer lines added in order for the produce to have more climbing space.  Once again, this Summer Stretch group was a wonderful group to work with...!  Lots of smiles from these hard workers.  Thank you Summer Stretch!