Alma Harrell has lived in Lynmore Estates nearly her whole life. She moved into the neighborhood, bordered by Houston Avenue and Broadway, in 1950. She met her husband, Benny, in the neighborhood at age 12.
Now 70, she has watched the neighborhood rise and fall over the years, but when she saw the new meditation garden at the end of her street, she knew the it was heading somewhere good again.
The neighborhood once had a reputation as a tough place to live, and crime was common. Blighted homes were left unattended by reluctant heirs after homeowners passed away. But that is changing. In recent years, Macon Area Habitat for Humanity has deconstructed blighted homes, built new ones, and organized clean ups and community gardens.
“I’ve seen it good. I’ve seen it bad, and now I see it good again with the Habitat houses and now this beautiful meditation garden. I love it,” Alma Harrell said.
The meditation garden, located at the corner of Melvin Place and Roy Avenue, is a gift to the neighborhood. Completed June 18, the 200 foot by 50 foot garden is the crown jewel of three projects funded by a Lowe’s grant worth more than $66,000 that also includes cabinetry for Habitat houses and weatherization for the homes of 10 elderly residents on fixed income.
The garden is brightly lit with large trees fixed on either side for shade. Flowers of all shapes and colors line beds along the back and corners. In the center, a brick path with an open diamond shape at its end leads to a large stone platform sitting under a slatted awning. A peach tree grows out of the diamond, a nod to the neighborhood’s past when it was known as the Peach Orchard.
I’ve seen it good. I’ve seen it bad, and now I see it good again with the Habitat houses and now this beautiful meditation garden.
Alma Harrell has big plans for the garden. It sits directly down the street from Southside Community Church, her the place of worship.
“We’re going to come down here and really enjoy it. Maybe bring a church group here, maybe have a Bible study,” she said.
Sundra Woodford, community relations manager for Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, said the meditation garden could have a huge impact on the mental well-being of residents.
To the right of the garden, there is a large labyrinth made of stones for residents to walk through and “concentrate on (their) direction,” she said. In the center of the labyrinth is a cross and heart. Woodford said she’d like the garden to become the “heart of the neighborhood.”
“We just talked to them about keeping this place not only as a place that’s sacred but also as a gathering place,” Woodford said. “Lynmore Estates has a renewed community spirit, and hopefully it is catching.”
Growing a community
Part of that renewed community spirit can be found in neighborhood leader Ernestine Thomas. She’s lived in Lynmore Estates a little over year and said she’d like to see the garden become a place where residents can come and relax.
Thomas, 54, worked alongside Lowe’s employee volunteers for more than 200 hours to complete the project.
“This was real hard, the heat was like 90-something degrees. It’s well worth it because this is what Lynmore Estates wanted, and this is what we needed,” she said. “We need something that will show the residents and the community that it can be done.”
Thomas now acts as one of 10 neighborhood leaders. She comes to the garden almost every day to water the grass and make sure everything is in order.
Woodford and residents said the garden is a starting point for other community involvement and growth in the neighborhood. Plans are in the works to create a “feed and read” program that will bring children to the garden to eat and enjoy books provided by the neighborhood.
Another proposal is the “Seed to Fruit(ion)” comprehensive neighborhood plan, a grassroots effort put in place by Macon Area Habitat for Humanity that encourages Lynmore Estates residents to invest in their own neighborhood.
Thomas knows her community can do it.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that your neighborhood can’t grow because it can be done,” she said.
Benny Harrell, 78, said he knew the neighborhood could grow into a positive place a long time ago but is glad to see it happening now.
“We’ve had lots of people that’s done stuff wrong out here, but now it’s getting better and better everyday.”