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 bountiful harvest.
“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.”
The garden was planted in June and is just now bearing fruit.
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.”