United Thank Offering

UTO Grants in Action: Hope in a Butterfly Garden

March 1, 2023
United Thank Offering

By the Rev. Jenn Allen, Diocesan Missioner, Episcopal Diocese of Kansas

Each month in our newsletter for coordinators, we share a story from a grant site, gleaned through our reporting processes. In 2023, we are sharing an additional story here to help tell the stories of where your thank offerings have gone and the impact that they have. We’ll also share how to get involved or support a project that might be of interest to you. This month, we’re sharing the story of a 2022 grant to the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas for a butterfly garden. This project has segments that are easily replicated in faith formation classes or local communities, so we wanted to share it with you now in case you also want to help increase pollinators in your community.

I caught the glimpse of something orange, fluttering. Turning carefully, I saw her. She was a beauty. She had settled on a purple prairie clover flower. Her wings were moving slowly in the sun. She was one of the two Monarch butterflies I had seen that week last September. 

Bethany House & Garden is an urban garden ministry. Near the state capitol building, the garden is the only public greenspace for the neighborhood. It sits in one of the two poorest zip codes in the county, the other poorest zip code is next door to the garden. It isn’t surprising that the area is a food desert. And it isn’t surprising that I only see two or three Monarch butterflies each week in the garden. Even though we are in the Monarch migration path, the urban setting offers little food or breeding grounds for the Monarch. 

We hope to change that in partnership with Meadows Elementary School, the school that covers our neighborhood. Through a grant from United Thank Offering, all the classes at Meadows will be able to participate in the restoration of the Monarch in urban Topeka. This spring, each class will raise 40 caterpillars to release in the gardens. Through other grants and gifts, we are loading the gardens with milkweed and nectar-bearing plants. The children will learn about the life-cycle of Monarchs, and why they are important to the environment. When they return in October to tag the butterflies, they will learn about the amazing migration of these wonderful creatures. 

The Monarch butterfly is a living symbol of hope. The tiny egg laid on a milkweed leaf hopes to grow into a caterpillar. As the caterpillar forms the telltale “J” and turns to a chrysalis, it hopes to emerge from its death to become a butterfly, as the last generation of the Monarch each year heads south, it hopes to arrive at the Oyamel Fir Forest in Mexico safely, and the dormant butterflies hope to begin the cycle again in the spring. Thanks to the grant received from United Thank Offering, the hope of the Monarch becomes our hope as we create much needed habitat in urban Topeka. Increasing pollinator habitat with even a tiny patch of native plants can help the Monarch.  

The Monarch symbolizes my hope for this garden ministry, that it will become inhabited by many Monarchs and other species, increasing the biodiversity of this little plot of land. And as the butterflies increase, my hope is that we will see our gardens inhabited by our human neighbors as well. So, they can learn, heal, and transform. So that they can be surprised by the glimpse of an orange fluttering wing and see many, many butterflies feasting on the nectar of wildflowers!

To learn more about this grant site or to further support their work visit: https://www.bethanyhouseandgarden.com

The Rev. Cn.
Heather Melton

Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

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