Carolyn & Tom Simmons
Blessed Trinity Garden
Life-long Cuyahoga residents, Carolyn and Tom Simmons, started gardening as newlyweds when they moved next-door to a new neighbor. He had been gardening an empty lot between their houses, and quickly the Simmons learned everything from composting to canning from him. “If you can read, you can can,” says Carolyn remembering their first years there. This neighborly introduction to caring for the land was an unexpected way for the couple to enjoy their new community, “and that was the best thing ever,” says Carolyn. Though Mrs. Simmons had youthful expectations of studying horticulture, she pursued chemistry instead. But there in the garden, she got to enjoy putting her science background into practical, everyday application. Her husband, Tom, prefers another part of the gardening practice. “I’m probably her assistant,” he says. “I enjoy being outside and doing a lot of the grunt work.”
Today, Carolyn and Tom help lead the gardening efforts at Blessed Trinity Community Garden in the Bellaire-Puritas neighborhood of Cleveland. Carolyn organizes and plans the growing each season, and connects with various groups who come to learn and volunteer. Tom uses waste materials from the parish and the community to improve the garden space. The garden started when Father Doug Koesel led a series of for spiritual exercises parishioners. One of which focused on ecology and environment. Under Father Doug’s direction, church members started seeds indoors and then transplanted them outside in a 10x10’ bed. Quickly, this space was at capacity and interest from others, like Carolyn, grew. The garden has become a great way to care for Blessed Trinity’s land and serve their neighbors. Neighborhood favorites like okra and greens are harvested on the same day the church’s food pantry serves families in need, but so are unfamiliar varieties like figs, kolrabi, and even mulberries. From the school children next-door who stretch their fingers through the fence to pet the garden’s chickens during recess, to the parents who are encouraged to try sprinkling mulberries on their Tasty O’s cereal from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the Simmons are following in the footsteps of their neighbor years ago, introducing a whole new generation of Clevelanders to gardening, ecology, and friendship.