Today in New Orleans I met yet another phenomenal person who dedicated her life to the community of New Orleans. Gloria, a 70 year-old woman with the energy of a 20 year-old, inspired all of us at her garden that she uses to help the local youth. During her vacation to New Orleans 8 years ago from her native city of Chicago, she saw the hefty need and moved down a week later. Despite all the people that said she shouldn’t leave her life in Chicago, the need to give back was too strong.
During my time at the garden I was able to do the service that I love the most: physical labor. Between the shoveling of mulch and weeding I could see the garden changing as the group poured lots of sweat and some blood into our work. I had the opportunity to see all of the talents of the group on display as we all took to the assignments that suited us most, whether it was painting or planting. Eager to make a difference during my first task of weeding, I neglected to notice the fire ant pile that resided at the base of the first weed I pulled. Quickly, I was swarmed by the fire ants, but thanks to a few slaps on my hands and legs I got away with only a few bites.  Despite this early adversity, the pain of the bites was a distant thought as the group came together to complete the weeding and mulching of the dirt along the edge of the garden.
One of the most inspiring aspects of our work was the enthusiasm of Gloria. She looked like a little girl on Christmas when she saw the work that was done and the flowers that we brought. Her enthusiasm was matched by those in the community around her. Both the restaurant right next door and the café two blocks away were ready to help with anything that Gloria needed.
Our final result was amazing. Gloria’s garden was transformed by the work of our group and was close to the state it was in before it was devastated by tornados months earlier. The hours of work that we put in steering the wheelbarrows and moving planters paid off when we all saw how beautiful Gloria’s Garden had become. We all got to leave our marks on the garden when she let us paint our names on the tires that she used as planters along the edge of the garden.
I was able to take away a few things from my work in Gloria’s garden. First being that when I see a need, big or small in any place, that I should take the initiative to do something to fulfill it. Second being that the support of the community is extremely powerful and can go a long way when it is employed. Third, that my age is no excuse not to help others in any way that I can. And last, to always look before you pull a weed because there might be fire ants underneath it.
– Savvas Ferekides