First annual greenhouse giveaway open to nonprofits

Posted March 30, 2012, at 10:14 p.m.

A new Maine business, GreenThumb Kits, is awarding a greenhouse — furnished with lights, benches and shelves — to a nonprofit organization this spring.

“It’s not your ordinary, everyday greenhouse,” said Jonathan Barneschi, GreenThumb Kits co-owner. “I can’t give you all the details before the unveiling, but there are benches, planter boxes and a special sign to hang on the door made by a local artist.”

To apply, participants must write a 1,000-word essay telling how a greenhouse would better serve their organization and surrounding community. Essays should be mailed to Erick Banda RE: Greenhouse Giveaway, P.O. Box 608, Ellsworth, ME 04605. The contest deadline is April 27.

All participants must be registered as 501(c)3 organizations within Maine and have at least one office located in Hancock, Penobscot or Washington counties.

The giveaway of the 5-by-7-foot custom greenhouse kit will launch GreenThumb Kits into its first season in business. After the giveaway, they will start taking orders for their line of garden products, which includes the greenhouse kits as well as window boxes, raised garden beds, planter benches, and other wooden gardening structures, according to their website, greenthumbkits.com.

The business was envisioned last fall, when business partners and lifelong carpenters Jonathan Barneschi and Erick Banda were swapping business ideas in their Freedom Woodworking shop in Otis. The idea to create greenhouse kits was spurred from Banda’s desire to build a greenhouse for his mother, a longtime landscaper who enjoys cooking with fresh, local produce.

“I see our goal as helping to grow stronger communities,” said Banda, who moved to Maine from Panama in 1997, at the age of 16. “Every time you turn on the news, you always hear about, with this economy, how

nonprofit organizations struggle. Maybe with these, people can grow vegetables and flowers, maybe sell them and raise money for whatever the nonprofits need … we hope that this will be successful, but if anything, at least someone will enjoy this gift and make it a success.”

In addition to helping an organization financially, the Otis entrepreneurs hope that the greenhouse kit will bring joy to the organization’s members and the people they serve.

“If you do any gardening or work with flowers, it’s very peaceful and calming, almost spiritual,” Barneschi said. “It really grounds you and takes your mind off the daily rush, what’s going on around you and the hustle and bustle of life.”

Starting early next week, Barneschi and Banda plan to start displaying the greenhouse at various places throughout the three counties, starting in downtown Ellsworth, to show organizations just what they’re offering.

“Everybody loved the idea. We realized how much of a demand there was, and we’ve had a lot of great response,” said Barneschi, who on Tuesday handed out more than 250 flyers to people in downtown Ellsworth about the giveaway. “I’ve been in this community for nearly 17 years and I’m pretty deeply rooted within [it], and so is my partner and so is my wife [Resa Beal]. All of us are putting lot of energy into this to make it happen.”

Maine 4-H Foundation will be judging the applications, Barneschi said, and the winner will be announced on May 5 outside Machias Savings Bank at the Mill Mall in Ellsworth. They hope to be able to make the giveaway an annual event.

GreenThumb Kits will start taking orders for greenhouse kits after the giveaway winner is announced in May. For information, contact Erick Banda at 460-0229 or visit greenthumbkits.com.

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