By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — A child care swimming pool is being re-serviced as a community garden in memory of a toddler who died two years ago.
The Little Community Garden will be dedicated Friday at 10 a.m. in the memory of Jazmin Green. Green was 2 when she died after being left inside a van after a June field trip to Chuck E. Cheese with Marlo's Magnificent Early Learning Center.
Olutoyin Okunoren, executive director of Little Ones Learning Center at 993 Forest Avenue, decided to turn the center's pool into a garden because of the costs.
"The upkeep and maintenance of the pool proved to be cumbersome since it was only utilized two months out of the year," she said.
Okunoren got a state wellness grant last year and decided to focus on teaching children the importance of good nutrition. She said she wanted the families living in the area to have the opportunity to grow their own produce and interact with other families.
“The garden serves many purposes,” Okunoren said. “It allows us to grow some of our own produce and provides social interaction with children and families. This will allow parents a time for meaningful interaction with their children and the opportunity for them to take ownership in the success of their plot. We will celebrate the process, not the end."
The neighborhood garden is the result of a partnership of businesses and individuals including organizers Antoine and Toni Dixon; Sparkle Adams, former mayor pro-tem of Forest Park; Monica Hardemon of It's Fashion Clothing Store; Charles Collins, Master Gardner and advisor, and donations from Home Depot . Teachers, the Parent Advisory Board, their children and also several volunteers spent many months cultivating the plot, said Okunoren. This project also coincides with the Black Child Development Institute's Community Initiative.
The garden contains many plots. Center families will have priority access to a free plot. Anyone else interested in a plot can lease a space for $15, $5 of which will be reimbursed if the plot is left clean at the end of the growing season.
Access to non-families will be granted on the weekends on a reservation basis. The money raised from leasing plots will go into the Parent Advisory Board fund.