Sometimes a hobby can turn into a passion, and that passion can change your community. Such was the case for Bonita Cason-Atlow.
After finding herself out of a job she held for twenty years, she found herself searching for purpose. She found it in a perfectly-heart shaped green tomato she pulled from her garden.
With her free time, she started gardening more, and took some of her fruits and vegetables to Interfaith Outreach Homes, a housing development for low-income individuals. She donated more than 20 types of food, and the staff were ecstatic.
Atlow took her love of gardening and whole foods and took it to the people of Atlanta. Now, her nonprofit Green of Hearts works with individuals and organizations to build community gardens and teach groups how growing and cultivating their own food can lead to healthier, more sustainable lifestyles.
Green of Hearts mission is to is to “alleviate societal issues concerning malnutrition, hunger, and obesity within populations at risk by establishing gardens – and a mindset – wherever there is an open space and a need.”
They achieve this mission through programming all over the city, working to turn black thumbs green. With their Senior Horticulture Education program, Green of Hearts works with senior citizens in an hour of gardening and garden-themed crafts. Then, to further help the community at large, the organization works with community groups, schools, churches, and residential centers to work on installing gardens and teach ways to cultivate and maintain them.
One of their biggest projects is with the Interfaith Outreach Home, as part of their efforts to create immersive community support. They work with residents and families to teach gardening and life skills, and show families how to incorporate the food and skills into their daily lives.
Through their community gardens, Green of Hearts hopes to inhibit community ownership, engage self-sufficiency, help citizens control obesity, provide access to nutritional foods for low-income families, and increase physical activity.
Atlow hopes to inspire people on the benefits of community gardening. “Cultivating and changing the way something is currently being used is a way to bring people together,” she said. “The goal is that we grow and share and sit down and have a meal together. I think we’ve forgotten how to just sit and talk and look at each other.”
“We are changing our direction of the way we view life,” she closed. “We are putting our hands together and doing something.”
The organization is always looking for volunteers to help with garden installations, garden maintenance, and carpentry. Volunteers can sign up and help out as individuals or in groups. The nonprofit is also always in need of financial support to carry out its programs, and donations go toward gardening equipment, seeds and plants, community outreach, and operations. Those interested can sign up or donate on Green of Hearts’ website at www.greenofhearts.org.