Garden Saviour Water Barrels

Published 4:29 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bosien’s landscape employee Chad Rothaug installs a rain barrel. Rothaug, who was also the first barrel maker and designer, used the project as the focus of his senior project. (photo submitted)

Green rain barrels can be spotted behind offices such as the tourism building in Columbus and homes scattered across Polk County.

While at first sight it might appear they are only set up to recycle rainwater, their creator wants people to see that they do so much more.

“We really need Polk County to see the importance of conserving the resources we have here – both our rainwater and our youth,” said Garden Saviour founder Cindy Bosien. “That’s what this project is trying to do.”

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The project brings youth looking for worthwhile job experience together with Bosien to run a business and help the community in the process.

This whole venture started out with a young man looking for work with Bosien’s landscaping business and a drought.

Three years ago a hard drought hit the area and the two were watching landscaping customers allow plants to die for fear of using too much water and worsening the growing water shortage. Frustrated, Bosien and her new employee began looking for a solution.

Bosien said a friend’s son suggested she start a rain barrel business and helped with the design of the first barrel. Before Bosien knew it, her employee began asking to bring high school friends to help build the barrels.

She explained she didn’t have much money to offer them but if they were willing to work hard they could come and learn valuable business experience.

In the three years since Garden Saviour Water Barrels began, 35 youth have worked with Bosien.

“I’m out to help them learn how to build a life,” Bosien said. “I’m pretty proud of the kids and all the work they’ve done.”

The work involved an extensive amount of research into what makes a good rain barrel, ways to best serve their customers and marketing the items.

A single barrel can hold 55 gallons of rainwater. Bosien said the group can even customize multiple barrels to work together and capture more water for use in landscaping or even washing your car.

The barrels’ design is a closed system, which Bosien said prevents the build up of bacteria or swarms of mosquitoes. The color of the barrel, a light mossy green, also prevents the water collected from heating up.

Bosien said she and the youth made this design decisions because pouring warm or hot water on plants doesn’t do them much good.

She also said they wanted to create something that would be an attractive feature in landscaping. Bosien said she wants to show the kids too what it takes to be an entrepreneur and a responsible member of their community.

“Right now I think our young people are in just a terrible situation. There are no jobs and so all they have left to do are drugs and get in trouble,” she said. “I’m working with young adults to just help them try and make it in this life.”

Molly Pace began working with Garden Saviour after Bosien and another youth worker stopped to help Pace change a flat tire. Pace said at the time she was an irresponsible teenager who was spending her time partying and living a life without focus.

“She really pointed me in the right direction and has helped me focus on what I really want in life,” Pace said.

Pace said understanding the concepts of money and time management, business ethics and responsibility have all come into play while working to install rain barrels. She said they’ve completed these and other projects in the community for both people who can pay and people who cannot.

The Garden Saviour Water Barrels are sold on a sliding fee scale. While the true cost of the barrels is $250, they have been sold for as little as a fifth of that cost or even given away.

Pace said because of this mindset, she’s learned a lot about how to make helping others a true aspect of your life.

“We try to offer ourselves up just to help people,” Pace said. “That’s what this business is about, it’s not really about the money.”

At the launch of this venture, Bosien and the kids purchased 30 barrels. They now have just eight of those first barrels left to sell and Bosien said the group needs the community’s support to keep the project going.

To learn more about the barrels, call Cindy Bosien at 828-625-9684.