On the streets of Athens live nearly 500 homeless people—most of whom are overlooked by the majority of the city’s residents. But there are some individuals who devote their time and energy helping those less fortunate. One in particular does her part in a unique way.
For nearly a year, Allison Floyd has volunteered to help create the One Community Garden—a garden off Prince Avenue where crops are raised organically and donated to a local soup kitchen.
Floyd grew up in Ringgold, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1996 with a journalism degree. After working for the Athens Banner-Herald, Floyd became the children and youth director at Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church.
In late 2013, the pastor of Young Harris UMC, David Wofford, collaborated with executive director of Action Ministries in Athens, Erin Barger, to expand a garden on the church’s property. They decided to put Floyd in charge. In addition to the crop boxes already in place, a large plot was designated for crops that would be donated to Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen in Athens that serves approximately 200 meals per day. The garden was dedicated to the people of Athens on Easter, when the first crops were planted.
Since then, Floyd estimates that she and her partner, Drew Hooks, donate about 10 pounds of crops like okra, tomatoes, peppers and squash every week. Floyd and Hooks work at the garden on Tuesday and Saturday each week watering the plants, planting new crops, harvesting crops for donation and maintaining the garden.
Floyd and Hooks knew each other before beginning this project, but they have spent a lot of time together since the start of the garden. Hooks described Floyd as lighthearted and easy to get along with and says work is enjoyable for both of them after building a friendship.
“Allison has been a great partner in this project because of her vision and flexibility,” Hooks said. “She has a strong desire to not only see the garden succeed, but to also create a welcoming space for people from all walks of life to work together, learn about each other and form relationships.”
Although the project is dedicated to helping people faced with “food insecurity,” Floyd wants it to encourage community gathering.
“The whole purpose of the garden is to bring people together to fellowship and to talk and spend time together,” Floyd said. “We all need interaction with each other, and it’s nice to work together for a common cause.”
According to Floyd, many different groups come take part in the garden’s mission. UGA Horticulture professor David Berle listed One Community Garden as a possible site for his students’ assigned volunteer hours, which has resulted in two or three students volunteering a couple of days each week. Members from a UGA Christian sorority and members from Young Harris UMC also frequent the site.
A Flagpole article from this past May about the garden also attracted many other volunteers, like Shannon Ritter. Ritter began volunteering at the garden after she read the article and has continued to volunteer once or twice a week. She really enjoys working at the garden with Floyd, who is always easy-going and non-judgmental.
“[Floyd] is wonderful to work with because she’s always bubbly about everything you’re doing in the garden,” Ritter said. “She is a very genuine person.”
Like many of the volunteers, Floyd had no previous experience with gardening. Planting and tending to crops is a learning experience, and Floyd has faced a few problems. Because the plants are not sprayed with pesticides, some have been destroyed by insects, and certain other crops haven’t grown as well as Floyd hoped. Despite these frustrations, Floyd still says watching things grow is one of her favorite parts of the project.
Floyd’s goal for the future is to find crops that are most productive, nutritious and appealing for the people at Our Daily Bread. She hopes more clients and volunteers get involved with the program so they can share the experience.
“It’s like a magic trick, God and nature did it,” Floyd said.