For participants in the Franklin County Treatment Court program, a community garden plants seeds of hope.
Gary P. Brewster, 45, struggled with alcohol and drug addictions for more than 30 years.
“I was a dead-up drunk,” he said. “I spent 18 years on the streets. I went through more than anyone can imagine. I took beatings and starved. I’ve undergone a lot physically and mentally.”
Brewster was looking at three years in prison when he entered the treatment court program. Now he’s just a month away from graduation.
As part of the program, participants are assigned a specific amount of community service. That’s where local garden enthusiastic Frankie Miller got the idea for a community garden.
After gaining approval from Judge Stanley Williams and Beth Billington, treatment court administrator, Miller went before the board of trustees at East Central College in April and gained their approval to convert a small plot of ground behind the ECC Regional Training Center into an organic garden.
About a dozen treatment court clients in the latter stages of the program participated in the garden last summer.
Clients erected a fence, tilled ground, mulched and built raised beds and trellises in preparation. Then seeds were sown, and the garden was weeded, watered and cared for all summer long.
More than a dozen local businesses and individuals donated materials, seeds and plants for the garden.
Garden harvests, about 45 pounds worth of produce, were donated to local food pantries, including the one at ECC, and clients also shared in the fruits of their labor.
“I was impressed,” said Sherry Huxol of Franklin County Probation and Parole on a visit to the garden site. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
Brewster said as a homeless person he felt “unapproachable” because most of the time he was high, drunk and dirty from living on the streets. The garden helped change his perception of life and his place in it.
“The garden made me feel wanted and needed,” he said. “I look back on it and say, ‘I did that.’ ”
Miller said she hopes to expand the garden in the next year and include some vertical gardening.