Local gardening group looks to resolve communal problems

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Ben Tucker, deputy chief of the Toledo Police Department, said they want to help establish a safe environment for the residents. Next to him is Mark Sobczak, chief of staff to Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, Toni Steward, and Kathy Russell, residents, Yvonne Dublielak, outreach and education director for Toledo Botanical Gardens, and Elizabeth Harris, community gardener liaison.

BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer

Initially, when the residence of the Greenbelt Place Apartments, 806 Cherry St., started a community garden in April, their aim was to help supply the residence of the complex with healthy food options. But as their labor of love increased, they also started focusing on resolving other issues that plague their home.

Late last month, the women who garden, who call themselves, “Gals in the Garden,” and the Residence Service of Greenbelt Place Apartments, held a luncheon in the community room. They invited community leaders, and government officials to attend the luncheon, and expressed  their concerns about their living place, while seeking assistance from those invited guests. Present during the luncheon were, Ben Tucker, deputy chief of the Toledo Police Department, Mark Sobczak, chief of staff for Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, and Yvonne Dublielak, outreach and education director for Toledo Botanical Gardens, with Toledo Grows.

Tracee Ellis, right, explains the purpose of the luncheon to the guests. Christina Hite, Latisha McNair, and Bobbie Gaines, listen.
Tracee Ellis, right, explains the purpose of the luncheon to the guests. Christina Hite, Latisha McNair, and Bobbie Gaines, listen.

Elizabeth Harris, community gardener liaison, and co-host of the event, told The Toledo Journal the luncheon had four objectives; to further provide healthy food options for the residents, establish a safe environment, increase, and provide more resident services, and launch onsite youth programming.

“Because of the constant change of management here at the Greenbelts, the residents are suffering because of the lack of necessary resources. Therefore, we want to help provide them with the things that will help better their lives,” she said.

Tracee Ellis, left and Elizabeth Harris, relentlessly work to help alleviate the problems many of the residents at Greenbelt Place Apartments face.
Tracee Ellis, left and Elizabeth Harris, relentlessly work to help alleviate the problems many of the residents at Greenbelt Place Apartments face.

Ms. Harris also said, “In addition to the challenges they face here, we needed to give them healthy food options. Many of the residents lack transportation therefore they can’t get around to get healthy food.”

Tracee Ellis is the resident advocacy services specialist. She explained that, getting the residents involved in gardening is just one way to help combat the negative stigma associated with the complex.

“We show the residents how healthy eating not only affects their physical life, but how it impacts their mental state as well,” she said.

Ms. Ellis explained that 30% of the residents are 18 years old or younger, and that when city leaders ignore their plight at the Greenbelts, the residents begin to feel disconnected with Toledo; something Ms. Ellis is trying to end.

“After today, what we want to see support from our city officials, and organizations,” Ms. Ellis said. “Support from city officials will help get the residence involved in what’s going on throughout the overall city,” she said.

Latisha McNair, no longer lives in the Greenbelt Place Apartments, but she returns regularly to continue her involvement in the gardening program.

“I’ve learned a lot through this program. I also love the fact that while we’re gardening, we discuss the problems in the area, and how to resolve those problems; communication is so important,” she said.

Bobbie Gaines was once a resident of the complex. She too, returns on a regular basis to continue her involvement in the gardening program.

“I love this program so much, that I’ve started a garden in my current home, but I still return to garden here,” she said.

Ms. Ellis said they would appreciate any contributions or ideas to help better the lives of the residents. She can be reached at 419-243-1131.

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