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Success continues to grow

By Rachel Wartian

With the rise of more sponsors, Healthy Suffolk can provide even more kits for “Gardens to Go.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Healthy Suffolk had plans to teach gardening at the East Suffolk Recreation Center with reserved plots and clean up events.

But with limits placed on gathering as a result of the pandemic, that was no longer an option. As a result, “Gardens to Go” kits were made for Suffolk residents 18 and younger and 60 and older to take home and grow. Each kit contains everything the beginning gardener needs: a large container, soil mix, seeds, plants and fertilizer.

According to Shelly Barlow, director of healthy food initiatives for Healthy Suffolk, the team wanted to give the community “something positive to look forward to with all the negativity growing in the news.”

With funding and support growing, Healthy Suffolk can produce more kits. They plan to give out 40 kits a month this summer, adding up to more than 100 kits by the end of August.

“We have received funding from the VFHY, Birdsong Family Trust Fund, TowneBank, the Louis and Mary Haddad Foundation, our Board, and other friends of Healthy Suffolk to support this program,” said Regina Brayboy, executive director of Healthy Suffolk. “It is definitely a COVID-19 success story.”

With the growing support, new goals are in the works for the future of Healthy Suffolk. Plans include themed gardening. This will consist of a kit with seeds to grow all ingredients of a recipe. Other goals include making more gardening kits and the ability to deliver the kits to those unable to go to Johnson’s Gardens to pick one up personally.

“Overall, the response has been gratifying,” said Barlow.

The Healthy Suffolk Facebook page keeps the gardeners connected to each other’s progress and helps them get help and tips on what their plants are doing.