Hope grows: local woman plants garden to feed those in need

One Moab resident is taking the lead to improve the quality of life for the impoverished in Grand County. Kristina Cassidy will be starting the HOPE Garden this spring as a way to provide those in need in with fresh food and hot meals. “I wanted to find a way to do anything I could to give back to the community for everything that has been given to me in my life,” Cassidy said.

The idea for the HOPE Garden began a number of years ago and was a natural fit for Cassidy, co-owner of Home and Garden Works, a landscaping company in Moab. Cassidy is also a trained hospice volunteer who helps care for the elderly and those in need of assistance.

But she said it wasn’t until recently that the idea came to fruition.

“My friend here in town told me she had found the perfect piece of land for the project,” Cassidy said. “This news had come after another property had fallen through, so it was perfect timing.”

The acreage is located in town and owned by an elderly man who still lives on the property but is unable to care for the land himself, Cassidy said. The owner has agreed to donate the land and all of the water for the project in exchange for landscaping and upkeep of the property.

“This is a very generous offer, and it is a good partnership for everyone,” Cassidy said.

Over the next few months, Cassidy and her partner will till the land and add irrigation systems using materials and equipment donated from various local organizations and residents.

The original intent of the project was to have Moab residents in need come to the garden to pick up fresh produce, but to preserve the privacy of the land owner, Cassidy will be delivering bags of produce around town to various organizations, including the Grand County Food Bank, the Moab Area Multicultural Center, and individuals and families who need food the most, she said.

“Everything I grow will go to those who really need food but may have fallen through the cracks of assistance programs for one reason or another,” Cassidy said. “There are also many people who are too proud to ask for assistance but really need it, and we want to find those people and help them get the help they require.”

Helping those in need get the food to enrich their lives in just one aspect of the project, Cassidy said. She also hopes to build awareness about poverty in the local community and on a larger, more universal scale.

“Poverty comes in all shapes and sizes, and it is amazing to learn how little people know about it. There is a tendency to think poorly of the impoverished or feel as though they are just lazy and don’t wish to help themselves,” Cassidy said. “But the fact is that no one can judge these individuals or the place in life they find themselves in because we don’t know anything about how they got there. Their story may be very different from our own, and it is only our responsibility to help, not to pass judgment.”

According to Cassidy, poverty is not just about finances but includes everyone from those without homes to individuals who are lonely, depressed, destitute, struggling with addiction, emotionally or spiritually bereft, homebound, or jobless. Cassidy said she believes that a little assistance can make a big difference in the lives of these individuals.

“Mother Theresa was someone who did a lot of work to help poverty. She went out to different communities and got involved on the ground level to help bring struggling people and families some relief,” Cassidy said. “Getting involved in that way helped her form a closer relationship with the issue and the individuals involved more than just raising money and sending supplies. It is my hope to parallel my mission with those of Mother Theresa’s.”

Along with the food delivery services, Cassidy said she has also been in contact with a number of local churches to host meal sites throughout the week. She wants to use the garden’s produce to prepare nutritious, hot meals once or twice a week as a way to provide a social setting as well as a meal – something she says may be lacking in people’s lives.

“Poverty is a lonely thing,” she said. “Some folks may have gone days to weeks without speaking with another person. It’s not just about food but the overall health of the individual.”

Cassidy and her partner are currently accepting donations for the project. They are asking for gardening supplies, such as irrigation tubing, tools, and fencing, cover cloths, tomato cages, straw bales, mulch, scrap wood, organic compost, and organic fertilizer. Cassidy said the project is well-stocked with donated seeds, but they are still looking for donations of plants.

Cassidy said her mission lies in the final words of a poem entitled “Anyway,” which is mounted on the wall of Shishu Bhavan, a children’s home in Calcutta created by Mother Theresa:

“People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them, Help people anyway. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth, Give the world the best you have anyway.”

“This is the message I hope carries us as a community through this project,” Cassidy said.

For more information, contact Cassidy at 220-1124 or [email protected]

ByBy Charli Engelhorn

contributing writer