stands

Garden in Columbus’s South Side neighborhood stands as beacon of light

Holly Zachariah
 
| The Columbus Dispatch

As the beat of West African drums carried through the neighborhood and the smoke from a fire built especially for s’mores swirled in the air, Iesha Hardy snaked her way through the garden beds and plucked some of the last of this season’s harvest.

Into her plastic bags she stuffed eggplant and tomatoes and collard greens and kale — and that was just to start. Daughter Bella had picked a pumpkin from the patch and dropped it into a bag, too.

That this bounty for their tummies was plentiful was a blessing, Hardy said, but the nourishment of the soul that has come to them by way of this postage-stamp patch of land on Berkeley Road is what has mattered to her family the most.

“They’ve built something beautiful here,” said Hardy, a 29-year-old insurance claims adjuster. “In a neighborhood where there isn’t so much to do, this is an oasis.”

As she spoke, she waved one hand around “Our Garden” (known here as “The OG” for short), a gathering spot just steps away from the busy intersection of Livingston Avenue and Berkeley in the historic Driving Park neighborhood of the city’s South Side: “It’s a special place.”

When Marjorie Chapman hears people say those things, she cannot help but smile. A yoga instructor who “retired” — she never really stops — after she closed the studio and spa she owned for years Downtown, Chapman paid a local nonprofit $1 (and a gift tax) to acquire the narrow plot of vacant land last year.

She had no concrete ideas for it, knowing only that she wanted to create a safe space that could bridge the generations of her neighborhood. She aimed to build a sense of community and — if everything went according to