2003 Garden Crusader Awards

Winner: Education,
Yvonne Morris, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Yvonne Morris
Yvonne Morris and some of her helpers.

When Yvonne Morris of Brooklyn, N.Y., first retired six years ago, she started volunteering at the local Salvation Army. Her intention was not to get another job, but when a position opened at the Salvation Army's day care center, she couldn't resist. "I've always enjoyed children, especially those at the preschool age," says Yvonne.

Yvonne also has another love: gardening. Ten years ago, she and other neighborhood residents, with the blessings of the city, decided to clean up a vacant 2-acre lot and create a community garden. Although she had grown up in the city and never gardened before, volunteers and friends helped Yvonne learned all about growing her own vegetables and flowers. Today, this community garden is not only filled with vegetables and beautiful flowers, but also peach, pear, apple, cherry and fig trees.

So when Yvonne started teaching youngsters in the Salvation Army Day Care Center, it was natural that her love of gardening would come through. She was eager to show kids at an early age the benefits of gardening. "Kids take for granted the food they eat and they don't know where it comes from," she says. "Giving them a positive gardening experience now can influence them for the rest of their lives," she hopes.

Yvonne has used her community garden to teach gardening skills as well as a little science. "We start seeds indoors in winter, plant them into the garden in spring in their own plot, and visit a few times a week during summer to take care of the young vegetables and harvest. "The kids sprout tomato seeds, transplant them into the garden, and watch the green tomatoes turn into the red fruits they later eat," says Yvonne. "We grow greens, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables in the garden, and it gives me the opportunity to teach them about the science of plant growth," she says. The kids love it. "I have 3-year-olds who see me in the neighborhood and ask when we're going to the garden again," says Yvonne.

Other teachers at the Salvation Army day care have noticed the excitement that Yvonne's gardening activities have generated, and have brought their kids to the garden too. The new day care director doesn't have gardening experience, but wants Yvonne to supervise the installation of a new garden right on the day care center grounds for next year. "Although I've now officially stopped teaching and have really retired this time, I can't help but be involved in this new garden," she says.

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