By Greg Hernandez
Frank Gulli used to have to travel from his Triangle Square apartment to a community garden in West Hollywood to work out his green thumb.
Now all he has to do is walk to the second floor patio area of Triangle Square, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s affordablehousing complex for LGBT seniors, to get his gardening fix.
The Center’s Young Professional Council and the Young Alumni of USC Lambda recently spent a Saturday putting together 12 portable wooden gardening plots and getting them ready for planting. It’s now it’s up to the residents to maintain the vegetables, herbs, and flowers that are being planted in what is their very own community garden.
“It’s open, It’s nice. It couldn’t be better,” says Gulli.. “The beds themselves are on wheels so this gives us the ability to be able to move from sunshine to shade as needed.”
Resident Edward Stanza already has his own garden on his third floor balcony, but likes the idea of a community garden.
“There’s a lot of green thumbs around here,” Stanza says. “This is wonderful for all of us because it gives us an opportunity to nurture something. You water it, you come out and check on it, and a few months later it rewards you with a tomato or squash.”
Kiera Pollock, the Center’s director of senior services, says the aim of the gardening project is to offer an outdoor activity that can provide a feeling of accomplishment and even reduce depression and anxiety.
“In general, a lot of our seniors have not had the opportunity to grow food,” Pollock says. “Nutrition is really important so we wanted to give them the opportunity to grow healthy food here as well as give them the opportunity to create a community space for themselves and to build something together, to see things grow from seeds to plants.”
Gulli knows from experience the many benefits of tending a garden.
“Anything to get people outside and into the fresh air and doing something really healthy is always a big plus,” he says. “When I’m in a garden, it’s one of the few places where I can actually still my head and just enjoy a simple thing like butterfly, a bug, a plant, dirt. It’s very important that people have this kind of time to eliminate all the stress that we have to deal with.”
The gardens are for everyone from those who have gardening knowledge to those who have never touched dirt in their lives.
“We are hoping people will mentor each other and create a space together,” Pollock says.
The John N. Calley Foundation, which has funded the Center’s youth gardening program, contributed the approximately $2,000 cost of the gardening beds, soil, and seeds.
“We thought this was a natural extension of youth garden program,” says Shawn Kravich, chair of the YPC executive committee and a member of the Calley Foundation board. “We also really value inter-generational work so to be able to leverage that and create an opportunity for the seniors here at Triangle Square was our pleasure.”
Longtime Triangle Square resident Jimmy Hughes looks on as the young volunteers prepared the gardening plots and smiles.
“This is wonderful,” he says. “It makes everybody feel that somebody’s looking out for them – watching and listening. Putting your hands in earth, making something grow, at our age it’s something.”