Local Hero Stephen Garland
The Program Director of The Hardy Center, Stephen Garland is the first in our Local Hero series. Read on to find out why he made our list for helping to "feed the kids."
Why is growing food so important for children?
“You put a seed in the ground and you have to watch it grow. That’s the concept. We raise stuff like squash, zucchini and eggplant. They’ll say, “my mother don’t like these.” We have to show them: this is what you do when you pick it, wash it off, cook it like this. Now taste it. They realize that’s something they can do."
What programs do you offer around food and community gardening for kids?
“We introduce all younger kids to gardening. We have arts classes make banners that go all the way around the outside of the garden.
Some kids gravitate to the garden all the time and it’s totally volunteer based. So they go and Stan (garden manager) gives them something and says, “Here, if you’re going to be here everyday this is what you’re going to take care of. This is what you do.” So they go over there and do their thing.
The fresh organic food is a hard sell. It isn’t ready immediately. So there are some that work here that pick the food and eat it; there is a group that’s interested in cooking. They go into the kitchen between meals and have an informal cooking class. We want to formalize that in the future and make it more regular.
We need more space. We started with 23 kids now we have between 350-400 every day.
You have to create an environment where the kids can make things their own, and that’s what we try to do both in the summer and after school."
What does it mean to be a community organization in service to others in need?
“It consumes you. It has apprehended me, I guess I should say. I was attempting to retire and the pastor asked me, he said, “Steve, I need your heart.” He explained what he wanted to do. They never used this building. They kept it locked. He said, feed the kids. There are programs where you can feed the kids in summer time. So that’s how we started. You see what the possibilities are and there are possibilities once you understand it. People get into nonprofit work and they think they’re going to save the world in six months and then think of something else to do. You find out that there are all kinds of blocks to doing that. The yield is very low in terms of souls that you save, so to speak. But the ones that you do its really heartwarming. At this point we have kids that have started with us that are now in college. One goes to Brown. One goes to Stanford.
There are a couple here that started as eight-years-old and they’re working here as 18-year-olds. We're just at that point where it’s starting to bloom.”
What is your favorite Ohio ingredient?
“Squash. I like the squash. I’m learning to cook now that I have to cook. And beets! I like beets. I learned how to keep the leaves, well, because the beet greens are good to sauté. They taste good. I’m really proud of myself. I got some squash and some kale and some beets. I almost don’t want any meat.”
The Hardy Center, 614-267-3733, 1743 East Lakeview Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43224