On April 14th, my first day on the job at Fayetteville Housing Authority, I visited all three of our off-site properties. Right off the bat – I picked up that the properties did not have a community feel to them. I made a mental note to start working on ways to improve connections between residents.

On May 7th, we had a Zoom Call with Jake and Garret from New Life Church to learn more about CityServe, a program that can supply essential items for our residents. But what stuck in my mind was the comment, “If you need anything, we have an army of volunteers ready to serve.”

On May 20th, we had the Morgan Manor “Love Where You Live” meeting. A resident brought up Victory Gardens as a way to supplement their food resources.

I loved the idea! And Jake came instantly to mind. I reached out and they were on board!

June: Insert a month of logistics/legwork on both sides…

AND

TODAY June 27th, CityServe/New life Church volunteers created Victory Gardens for 10 of our residents at Morgan Manor!

Here’s what I observed from today’s Victory Garden Project:

As we were unloading supplies, a resident strolled by as she was out walking her dog. She asked what we were doing. Upon finding out that we were all there to put in gardens her eyes lit up and she asked if she could help. Of course! This woman jumped right in and worked all day long on the gardens along-side the volunteers. She is an avid gardener herself and was so valuable to the project. She was filled with purpose, belonging, and strength as she helped her neighbors with their gardens. She also said that she would keep an eye on all the gardens and assist the residents if they needed help weeding/watering etc.

I watched residents coming out of their homes to talk about their gardens with each other (from 6 feet apart.) Two residents were trading plants and comparing flowers.

One resident was so excited with her garden spot that she jumped into her car to go buy topsoil. When she got back, she told me that she had planned on getting the cheap kind, as it was all she could afford – but the fancy ones were marked for only $2.00 a bag! It was a mistake on the store’s end, they were actually $13 dollars each – but they gave it to her for the posted price and she was so happy! She started spreading that rich dirt all over her garden spot.

One of our residents, who already has an impressive garden, asked everyone to look out for large rocks as they dug – as he uses the rocks to line his garden. He walked around quite a bit giving tips and accepting rocks.

Many residents brought chairs outside so they could sit in their yard and watch the gardens going up. I was able to walk around and interact with many that I hadn’t met yet. Multiple times I was told, “Yeah, I heard about the gardens, but I assumed it would be years before it happened. I can’t believe it is happening so soon!”

Other comments:

“Is this mine? Like, it doesn’t belong to just the FHA, I can tend it and keep the vegetables?”

“I can’t afford to buy very many vegetables, but now I can just walk outside and pick them!”

“My kids are not used to eating vegetables, I’m hoping if they help with the garden that they will have the opportunity to learn how to like them.)

This project brought a community together. Even though everyone kept a safe distance – the residents were still able to bond over a common goal and shared interests. A connected community and connecting to community are still possible during COVID.

Residents with food insecurity now have the comfort of knowing that they have a meal growing just outside their door and residents have a higher sense of pride and love for where they live!

#HousersAtWork