Plant a seed. Water it. And eventually that seed will turn into something beautiful.
That is exactly what 33-year-old Kristy, a client at Angel House, discovered this summer when she helped to take a barren stretch of land on the shelter’s property and transformed it into a garden complete with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, green beans, cucumber, parsley, iceberg lettuce, red hot peppers and basil.
“I absolutely love it,” Kristy said. “I loved watching it grow.”
Guiding her along the way was Mike Almonte of Yarmouth Port, a master gardener that Angel House staff found through the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension and who oversaw the project, assisting with everything from soil prep to the actual planting of the vegetables.
Kristy, who is from Western Massachusetts, arrived at Angel House a little over a year ago, pregnant with her daughter Lillian, now 11 months old. “So this is my home,” Kristy said. “This here is my family.”
That “family” has taught Kristy the skills necessary to being a parent as well as the tools to overcome the emotional scars of substance abuse. As of September she had been sober for 18 months.
But Angel House gave her something more. It gave her purpose; nearly every day starting in the spring she spent time outdoors, sometimes just her, alone with some gardening tools.
“When I started, there wasn’t even grass here,” Kristy said proudly. “We dug it up with some shovels, put some compost on here,” and planted some seeds and vegetables.
The end result is something she could never have imagined. Angel House now has a thriving garden, one that nourishes clients who use the vegetables in their daily meals.
“It has absolutely brought down our food budget,” Angel House family clinician Martha Woods said.
And it has given Kristy not only a new skill – “I never gardened in my life before,” she admitted – but the knowledge that she can make a meaningful impact in her life.
Almonte hoped that Kristy, and others at Angel House, can take gardening with them once they leave the shelter. “It is something they did with their own two hands. I think it is great therapy,” he said. “They can keep a tiny garden with them wherever they go – put a tomato in one plant and a cucumber in another – and get tremendous enjoyment from that.”
“I think growing a garden is a metaphor for recovery,” said Angel House case manager Darby Moynagh. “If you plant a seed it will grow into a vegetable. And as a woman she is having her own growth. The most important thing this gave Kristy is the confidence that she can be successful.”