04/06/08 — Garden of hope

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Garden of hope

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 6, 2008 3:43 AM

A few weeks ago, when Daina Taylor looked out her apartment at the corner of Slocumb and Olivia streets, she saw an empty lot full of trash.

Today she sees potential -- a lot that has been cleaned, two piles of compost and with soil already turned over, an area that is just about ready for planting.

Her vision is to turn the lot, which often holds church revivals during the summer, into a "CommUNITY Garden" -- a reclaimed space full of flowers and vegetables where children and families can feel safe and secure.

"I've seen a lot of things right here," Ms. Taylor said. "The community doesn't see that lot as something beautiful. But we want it to be, and we want the community to be involved in this. Everyone in the community is welcome to take part in it. We're all pulling together."

The group's primary target, though, is Goldsboro's youth -- especially those who are struggling in school.

"We're trying to have this involve, in some way, academics," she explained.

And while they are still working out the details, she is hopeful the project will include remedial classes, as well as mentoring and job shadowing opportunities with city officials and other leading community figures.

"Their role models are whoever pays attention to them, and some of the neighborhood drug dealers are the ones buying them clothes and shoes and school supplies, and it's like the Robin Hood syndrome," she said. "Half of the children in this community don't even know what the mayor looks like or what the district attorney looks like until they wind up in trouble and in court in handcuffs."

But to make those kinds of inroads, she explained, the children and the community need something they can rally around, and with the help of several local churches and businesses, the county Cooperative Extension 4-H program, Wayne County Community College and Cherry Research Farm, she is optimistic they can make that happen with their community garden.

"I love flowers. I love anything that grows, and we just believe the children need something to do -- something they can be proud of," Ms. Taylor said.

She also hopes that it will provide the children and their families with free, fresh produce -- "something to snack on other than chips and soda."

In the garden, which she hopes to begin planting within the next couple of weeks, will be flowers of all colors, shapes and sizes, as well as vegetables ranging from watermelons to squash to cantaloupes, to eggplants to carrots to various kinds of greens -- all of it, from the seeds, to the fertilizer, to the tools, to the labor, donated by the community.

And by the end of the summer, when it's time for everything to be harvested, she hopes that having the garden on that corner where there used to be trash will have made a difference.

"It's a big dream, but you've got to start small," Ms. Taylor said. "Flowers and beans are just the beginning. Hopefully we're planting the seeds of hope."