‘I have been an avid gardener for over 40 years and have loved educating my grandkids on the benefits of growing vegetables for ourselves and for those around us.’
“It’s funny how I got interested in gardening. My mother had a garden in the back of the house, but as a kid I was more interested in sports. It’s when I married and moved into my first house in Plainview and realized I didn’t want to take care of a lawn. I would come home from vacation and it was all brown. Then I thought, maybe I’ll have a garden. Started on the side of the house, grew tomatoes and cucumbers. Easy!
“I moved to Sands Point, where I started another garden and joined the Port Washington Jewish Center and later became its president. We had a lot of people involved in community service — none more so than our rabbi, Donna Berman. She would announce to me, ‘Hey, on Tuesday, we’re going to Central Park to give out clothes and sandwiches to the homeless!’ It was the dead of winter! But I found myself organizing 15 to 18 cars. We’d make hundreds of sandwiches in two days, and off we’d go!
“It was my first time involved in social action. I liked it and wanted to do more. I learned that Long Island has a very large working population that lives in poverty, making it very difficult to afford fresh produce. These families mostly receive nonperishable donations, which have very little nutritional value.
Since its inception, we’ve delivered more than 57,000 pounds of food.
“To address this problem, in 2010 I created a program called Plant a Row for the Hungry in Port Washington, designed to mobilize residents to grow vegetables at home and donate a portion of the produce to families with food insecurities.
“Since its inception, we’ve delivered more than 57,000 pounds of food. I met Horace and Amy Hagedorn — their company invented Miracle-Gro — and they donated fertilizer and other valuable stuff. Our program has not only helped feed the poor but has helped volunteers as well.
“My friend Anna was in a funk after losing her husband. She joined our 5 to 6 p.m. Club — from May to October, we maintain and harvest our two main gardens during that hour — and the involvement completely revitalized her!
“It’s been so satisfying to me, too. I have been an avid gardener for over 40 years and have loved educating my grandkids on the benefits of growing vegetables for ourselves and for those around us. Our efforts should never end but grow!”
Interviewed by Saul Schachter