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Back to Their Roots

July 29th, 2011 - By Therese Madden

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Many seniors living in Guild House West, a low income housing complex, grew up gardening. Returning to that activity not only provides exercise, but also fresh produce for everyone in the complex.


The Guild House West is a 5 story apartment building in North Philadelphia. Andrew Anderson is the property manager. “This place is for low-income seniors, people who don’t have two dimes to rub together. “There’s a community room on the ground floor, but there’s also another public gathering spot just outside the door.

“This is the senior garden.” Emily Keeler is the gardening coordinator, she’s pointing out what’s growing. Residents who want to, have plots here, but there’s also an area on the other side of the building where Keeler and her team grow vegetables to share, as landscaper Rania Campbell-Cobb explains. “And it all goes to the residents, we harvest it twice a week put it in the community room, first come first serve, but residents know what day it’s going to be there.”

Lola Kendall Robinson with her tomatoes

The vegetables are free for the residents and according to Keeler they really make a difference in the way people eat. “Nutritionally its essential. They don’t have any grocery stores around, there’s a few corner stores, where you might be able to find fresh vegetables but for most part you really have to travel and that’s one of the hardest parts about being older. A lot harder to get around, no car.” Not only do people not have cars, many of them have health issues. This is one of the reasons why they started the gardens in the first place, says property manager Andrew Anderson. “The idea was to do two things. One was to get people on track to have good food, rather than be on track for diabetes. But the other piece was to get people out and exercising instead of inside with TV on and into community with each other.”

66-year-old Lola Kendall Robinson, is one of the more active gardeners. She has a plot in the senior garden and helps in the communal beds. “Gardening is therapeutic to me, I enjoy it, its my outlet. I love to watch food grow from seed to the pot.” In addition to growing vegetables for her neighbors, Lola gives away a bunch at church, but she always makes sure to keep some for herself. “This year so far, I’ve only given away a trash bag and a half of greens; I’m real skimpy with the tomatoes, I don’t give those away too much.”

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