Community Gardens Strengthen Enright Neighborhood

By Maggie McCarthy
In Culture

 North County nonprofit LOVEtheLOU is dedicated to bringing unity and vitality to St. Louis. Through its community initiatives, the group provides opportunities for transformation on an individual and communal level. For example, by setting up urban gardens in the Enright neighborhood, this organization provides sustainable food, productive work for area teens and a gathering place for community members.

enrightgarden

Photo courtesy of LOVEtheLOU

These garden lots are made available by the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) for $1 a year. Recently, St. Louis government officials and the LRA have sought out new methods for productive use of vacant land. LOVEtheLOU’s gardens make up a small fraction of the many initiatives to restore vacant land.

The Enright Community Gardens were launched through LOVEtheLOU’s youth development program called STL | LIFT. This branch of outreach focuses specifically on finding productive ways for teens to make money and develop skills.

These gardens have changed the fabric of their neighborhood, encouraging area teens to learn and grow: “It has shown them a way they can be useful and a way that they can do something in their lives. It’s giving them confidence,” says founder Lucas Rouggly.

This project began in 2012 with four raised beds in an abandoned lot on the 4100 block of Enright Avenue. Today the gardens have become a central fixture of the neighborhood. Due to the dedication of countless volunteers and staff members, four raised beds have become three distinct, thriving gardens. Community members now work together to cultivate them in the warm months.

Each individual garden fulfills a unique function. The first holds 18 raised beds and is frequently used by neighbors. The second garden, designated as a place of beauty and rest, is filled with benches, decks, swings and tables for neighborhood gatherings. Significantly larger than the other two, the third garden is set to become an urban farm complete with beehives, chicken coops, fruit trees and several vegetable gardens.

The presence of these gardens enables sustainability within the Enright neighborhood and has lead to stronger bonds between neighbors.

Thanks to generous donations from supporters and the effective work of several volunteers, LOVEtheLOU now employs 20 area teens as garden workers. In caring for the gardens, these teenagers grow food that will eventually end up on their neighbors plates.

Area teen Carlandis Sampa, age 18, has been involved with LOVEtheLOU since eighth grade. Now a regular worker in the gardens he reflects, “The gardens really changed the neighborhood. The neighborhood was really worse than it is now; it brought the community closer together.”

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