The Planting Has Begun: Community Garden comes to life

Published 7:30 am Saturday, May 4, 2024

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The first seeds have been sewn at the Josephine Royster Community Garden at 105 West 7th Street. The garden is named after Royster who had been a member of the Washington Housing Authority Board for 40 years. Local volunteers got to work prepping the soil and planting the first crop of herbs and vegetables. “Thanks to our volunteers, we are very excited to get the planting finally started,” said Alice Sadler, chair of the Washington Housing Authority Board. “Today, we were able to lay out some of the first cinder blocks for our garden beds and planted rosemary, potatoes, peppers, squash, and green beans. We still have a lot of plants so we are getting some additional cinder blocks to build more beds. Everything is looking pretty good after just two days of work.”

When Royster moved to Washington from New York she was unable to live anywhere but public housing because she was low-income. She went on to become a member of the Housing Authority Board, as a resident council member. “One of the things that she did was to teach the small children in the neighborhood how to plant gardens,” said Sadler. “When Josephine passed away last year at the age of 90, the current chair of the residents council, Loraine Gordon, decided they would spearhead the development and care of a community garden. It is located on a vacant lot that the city donated to us and it is our responsibility to maintain it.”

During the groundbreaking ceremonies last Fall, Royster’s daughter Roberta “Lovie” Rogers described her mother as a pillar of her community as she enriched the lives of her neighbors. She said her mother’s door at 106 Mayo Drive “was always open” to anyone who needed help. This included women experiencing domestic violence who needed shelter, filling up a bedroom with donated clothes that neighbors could “shop” for, for free, and teaching young people how to plant and cook.  “She was just one of those women,” said Rogers. “It wasn’t that she wanted a name for herself – she really cared for people. Housing, clothing, and feeding her neighbors, as well as providing a listening ear was “her heart,” her mission in life.”

Sadler said the garden is there for the public housing tenants, but they envision the idea as one benefiting the entire community. “We just need to get this one up there first, with the hope of more to come,” said Sadler. “We are also encouraging our tenants to become more self-sufficient when it comes to feeding themselves and planting gardens on their property.”

Those interested in volunteering may call the Washington Housing Authority office at 252-946-0061 or Lorraine Gordon at 252-944-5926.