In 2015, City of Promise moved its headquarters from High Street to its current location on Page Street. Barbara Yager had just retired from the Health Department after 25 years. A Registered Dietitian by profession, Barbara’s prior work at the Westhaven Nursing Clinic as a WIC nutritionist enabled her to build strong ties with long-time community advocate Joy Johnson and clinic nurse Holly Edwards. "When City of Promise came to the neighborhood, I asked Sarad Davenport if he needed any volunteer help," says Barbara. What started as answering the phone at the front desk grew to creating and managing the incredible garden next to City of Promise.
It took vision to transform what was an empty lot into the raised beds that now produce an abundant array of vegetables and herbs. These are offered, free of charge, back to the neighbors through market days. "Neighbors thought it would be great to have a garden for the produce and to give the community a safe and peaceful setting instead of an empty lot," Barbara recounts. With about $300, the expertise of neighbor and carpenter Ali Radjavi, and many volunteers who taught our youth to use tools, the original wooden beds were installed in 2015. They have since been replaced with durable garden beds, thanks to a grant from Sentara Martha Jefferson.
Barbara recently transitioned out of her role as City of Promise gardener, but she remains a loyal volunteer and community advocate. She’s built relationships in the neighborhood through a steady presence and willingness to serve wherever there's a need, be it making sandwiches or shuttling kids off the bus. Ever-attuned to the need for equity in healthcare and food access, Barbara built partnerships, which bring additional supports for health, produce, and cooking classes to the community that our elder residents especially appreciate.
"A garden feels like a piece of home for many of our residents, connecting them to their roots," Barbara says. "My joy is in watching the garden grow and expand. It's life-giving to see plants and families grow. Seeing life renewed and growing is fulfilling and joyful."