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The Gift of a Garden

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

A community-minded teen helps transform a family's front yard into a sustainable garden full of healthful food.

Installing a new sustainable garden

"Remember, the greatest gift is not found in a store nor under a tree, but in the hearts of true friends." — Unknown

I am often asked about numbers — how many gardens I have, how many pounds of vegetables I’ve donated, how many people I help to feed. It’s what’s behind the numbers that’s really important to me. Behind each of those numbers is a person or a family facing challenging times. Every garden, every vegetable I grow is about helping those people.

There is one family in particular that has a special place in my heart. They are a family of four: two adorable children, ages 3 and 5, being raised by their great-grandparents. They walked into my life at a Katie's Krops dinner and have held a special place in my life ever since.

When the holidays rolled around, I wanted to get gifts for all of the families we help. We gathered donations of toys, clothes, coats, and stockings full of treasures. But when it came to this special family, nothing I could buy in a store seemed to be just right. Bill, the great-grandfather, had always told us how much he wanted a vegetable and herb garden. He even pointed out the perfect location in his front yard.

I wrapped hundreds of gifts for the families we help, but for Bill, Sandra, Bubba, and Leela, I simply wrote a card explaining that their gift could not be wrapped. It would not come with bows or a tag. It would come with lots of love, sweat, and a few green leaves.

Just before Christmas, we assembled a group of volunteers, collected some supplies, and turned the family’s front yard into a sustainable source of healthful, fresh food. We began by removing weeds, dead flowers, and overgrown shrubs in front of the house. There we found a wonderful surprise — old brick edging around a long-forgotten flowerbed.

Using the footprint of the existing edging, we built up a raised bed with new tan pavers and filled it with rich soil. Then we planted cole crops such as cabbage, collards, and rutabaga. Curly leaf lettuce, white and red radishes, and yellow pansies filled out the new bed, which was anchored with two azaleas. Within a few hours, the front yard had been completely transformed.

Our volunteers were amazing, but it was the two youngest gardeners who left the biggest impact. Leela and Bubba helped every step of the way. They were right in there planting, watering, and learning how to care for their very own garden. Most important, though, was the sense of pride the family and Katie’s Krops volunteers took in the transformation.

Now when someone asks me about the numbers, I’m happy to add one more garden to the list and share a story about the special family tending that garden. In the end, it isn't about the numbers. It’s about the people.

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