(09/17/21) COVINGTON, La. — Just weeks after Hurricane Ida passed through southeast Louisiana, neighbors were working to help one another remove storm-downed trees, clean-up and make home repairs.
LSU AgCenter family and consumer sciences regional coordinator Valerie Vincent said the community garden also brought residents together to assess the storm damage, clean-up and replant what was lost.
The LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities program, in conjunction with the Covington Mayor’s Council on Healthy Lifestyles and the Covington Community Garden Team, sought to connect residents with resources immediately following the storm, Vincent said.
“The community gardens were also an area where the community wanted to help,” Vincent said. “Even though the Covington Community Garden Team members were displaced and had needs of their own, they answered the call to clean-up and replant the garden.”
Storm preparation was key. Prior to the storm, Tim Ellzey, the volunteer garden manager, worked with volunteers to secure the garden.
“We held a hurricane preparedness workday,” Ellzey said. “That workday proved to be critical to some of the plants making it through the storm.”
In the aftermath of the storm, despite damage, the plants are still producing. Ellzey has picked 10 pounds of okra since the storm hit that have been donated to residents in need.
“Seeing the garden come through the storm with damage, but ready to be replanted was a welcome sight and many have commented to me that the garden is a symbol of the community that, with a little time and effort, will be better than ever, just like south Louisiana,” Vincent said.
AgCenter agent William Afton agreed, stating, “Preparation is critical. Before any storm, you should secure the garden and, in the aftermath of the storm, conduct an assessment.”
In the Covington Community Garden, storm assessments indicated that plants had suffered wind damage. Providing these plants with essentials like water, nutrients and sunlight should help them to recover.
“The plants that were damaged can recover over time with proper care just like we can recover,” Afton stated.
Pam McKay, of God’s Unchanging Hand Feeding Ministry, works out of the church across the street from the garden to feed the most food-insecure residents.
“The storm brought people together,” McKay said. “We see people helping one another, and seeing the garden brought back to life means so much to me. Even our youngest residents came out to help revitalize the garden.”
Covington Kids Garden Club member Jaiden Gifford came out to celebrate his eleventh birthday and help replant the garden.
“The garden will help feed people who got hit from the storm,” Gifford said. “It’s really important to help.”
Community garden workdays are held each Friday morning at 9 a.m. for anyone wishing to volunteer in the garden. The community garden also offers a hands-on educational kids club that is co-chaired by Valerie Vincent and Dr. Katie Queen, a Northshore pediatrician specializing in childhood obesity prevention.
The fall plants were donated by Ellzey, Vincent said.
To become a community garden partner or sponsor opportunities and events at the garden, contact Ellzey at email@example.com. To sign up for the Covington Community Garden Kids Club visit https://tinyurl.com/CovKidsClub or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Covington Community Garden volunteers are preparing to rebuild what was damaged by Hurricane Ida. Pictured are Tim Ellzey, the volunteer garden manger, LSU AgCenter family and consumer sciences regional coordinator Valerie Vincent, Covington Kids Garden Club member Jaiden Gifford, Pam McKay of Gods Unchanging Hand Feeding Ministry and AgCenter agent William Afton. Photo by Valerie Vincent/LSU AgCenter
Covington Community Garden manager Tim Ellzey assesses Hurricane Ida damage as the power crews work to restore electricity to the community. Photo by Valerie Vincent/LSU AgCenter