SAN ANTONIO — Lots of people who love to pamper their plants and their yards have been feeling much like their wilted vegetation. They are still coping with the devastating damage from the February ice storm that killed or bruised plenty of lush landscaping.
But many are growing again and they say with a bit of inspiration and free community resources, anyone who wants a green thumb can have one.
The Mission Continues is a non-profit comprised of military veterans. Their volunteers can often be found in east San Antonio at Gardopia Gardens on North New Braunfels Avenue.
At a brightly decorated sign up area, with balloons bobbing in a gentle breeze, Andrea Strong says of her group “We're utilizing their gifts and their talents that they learned in the military in the civilian sector and we are pushing them back out into our local communities across the nation.”
Strong says local veterans love to get their hands dirty growing community.
“Gardening is a perfect fit for us because it brings us peace. It brings us encouragement. And it continues our purpose in life to give back to others,” Strong said.
Because the deep freeze did so much damage, now is a great time to get involved.
“You know you have your challenges in life and you have to keep going and so what we've done here at Gardopia Gardens is we continue to grow," Strong said. "We continue to come out here and serve and get the garden back where it needs to be.”
Volunteer Darnell Thomas agreed, while working to build a structure that will house new outreach efforts at the garden.
“I can learn something and I'm thinking about doing some gardening at home as well, so it's a good way to pick up information while helping out,” Thomas said.
Volunteer Fred Fluckers made a similar connection.
“In order to have life, you need health and in order to get healthy you need food, so gardening is just one of those things of life that without eating good things you can't be a healthy, good person,” Fluckers said.
A few blocks away at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy garden, volunteer Henry Gonzales said they are growing plants and people.
Gonzales said he helps out because his two grandsons attend the school.
“They say 'Grandpa, we got to do this' and I say okay fine. I follow what they do," Gonzales said. "We have to set examples for them because if we don't what happens tomorrow?”
Because they also have a garden at home, Gonzales said helping out at the school is a natural fit. He believes every child benefits from learning to garden.
“Look! With my two little hands we planted this and we saw it grow and now we can eat the fruits of our labor,” Gonzales said.
Strong says both the act of gardening and eating what you grow is a great prescription for a healthy life.
“It is a universal medicine if you give it a try,” Strong said.
There are dozens of places in every quadrant of the city actively recruiting volunteers.
Here are some links to local groups that offer free, fun resources: