Paradise behind Morris School Apartments
Using tools as simple as a shovel, hoe and a spading fork, Jaime Rivera has created an oasis of green behind his home at Springfield Housing Authority’s Morris School Apartments.
What was once a tiny patch of rock-strewn dirt leading to a wooded area is now lush with flowers and vegetables, including tomatoes, squash, peppers, and much more.
For Rivera, the garden is an expanding project that is an act of love. He beams with obvious pride when showing a visitor around the fecund spot that has doubled in size in recent years.
“I love gardening and growing things,” said Rivera. “I come out every day and work on things.”
As evidence, he points to the bean plants and a peach tree that make up recent additions in the garden at the development for elderly and handicapped residents in the Pine Point section of the city.
In the middle of the L-shaped garden is another of Rivera’s pet projects – a blue shed that he fixed up and painted to hold the tools and items he uses to keep the area in good shape. That shed is owned by SHA.
“I’ve cleaned this whole yard out,” Rivera said. “I’ve always loved working with the land, the soil. It feels good to me.”
Rivera is happy to share the fruits of his labors with his neighbors, he said.
Besides the obvious bounty of freshly grown food and flora, gardening has known benefits for those who practice it. And at Springfield Housing Authority, gardens blossom at many of the two dozen family, elderly and handicap developments.
The SHA supports those gardens, providing residents with some of what they need. Other items may come in the form of donations, or funds raised directly by residents.
Those who grow small gardens, or participate in community gardens, will receive benefits including daily doses of fresh air, socialization with neighbors, new friends, stress relief, and a feeling of relaxation and connection with nature.
Studies have also shown that gardening can bring health benefits as well, including heart health improvements and stroke risk reductions, improved hand streak and dexterity, and even potentially better brain health and a related reduction of the risk of Alzheimer’s.
As with most gardeners, in Rivera’s case, it just feels good.
“There’s never a bad day in the garden,” he said, smiling.
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