When Melissa King was diagnosed with ALS in
2014, there were a lot of things the professionally-trained chef thought she
would have to give up as time went on.
Slowing losing her ability to walk and talk, when she moved into the Leonard Florence Center for Living in 2018, she thought her life-long love of gardening and growing fresh produce had long been gone from her life.
However, as she toured the grounds, she
noticed a few unused planting areas on the patio, and with the help of other
residents and staff, she has re-ignited her passion for gardening and reaped a
“I thought of the idea and decided to talk
to Coty Miller about it,” she said. “He brought it to the administration and
they said ok. I noted the beds when I took my tour before I moved in. My
grandparents passed down the rich tradition of gardening to me. I thought that
part of my life was behind me. Thankfully, I was able to continue planting in
this rich tradition that I had passed down to me. It makes me very happy to see
visitors and residents getting really interested in the garden.”
Miller, who handles programming and resident
services at the Leonard Florence, said the initiative was all on King.
“She came to me and to Mr. (Barry) Berman
and asked if we could have a garden,” he said. “We were 100 percent behind it
and moved forward quickly to get it started. She’s the first resident here to
start her own garden, and it’s been exciting.”
In the garden, staff have taken to using
King’s produce in food for the residents, including parsley, sage, cilantro and
basil. They have also used the tomatoes, which King says are her favorite and
have been a pick-me-up.
“I like making sauce, eating plain tomato
and mayo sandwiches, or BLTs,” she added.
King said they will be giving first-dibs on
the harvest to those that have helped to water or weed the garden. The rest
will go on a table for anyone to choose.
If folks are lucky, there might be something
left by next month, when the annual Walk for Living takes place.
The garden has been bringing quite a bit of
excitement and publicity for the upcoming Walk for Living on Oct. 6, and King
is preparing her garden for everyone to see.
“I’m doing the walk under Team Melissa’s
Muscles,” she said. “I have a lot of people signed up. Last year, I had just
arrived and I had no idea how big it was. So, I’m rolling for the first time
this year. My dog Chi-Chi is going to be walking too. I’ve been out doing the
walking route everyday training for the big day. Ha Ha.”
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