Spirits bloom at Hammond flower giveaway

The key to free impatiens for some Hammond residents on a recent Saturday was patience.

Hours before the doors at the Jean Shepherd Center opened at 10 a.m., a line wrapped around the south side of the building.

First in line for the second year in a row was Mary Reeves with her grandson, Tyler Born, 12.

"I like to always be in front, so I made sure we got here early," the Hammond resident said, with a laugh. "I've been in line for hours."

Friends Katie Carr and Mary Austin weren't far behind Reeves.

"We don't mind the wait," Carr said, as she glanced at the long row of Hammond residents snaking behind her. "I know the flowers will be beautiful and we appreciate this."

Their wait paid off not in impatiens, but in petunias.

Once inside, visitors checked in with representatives of Hammond Parks, the organization that staged the event. The annual giveaway of annuals only applied to Hammond residents.

"This (flower giveaway) has become very popular," Shepherd Center employee Rosa Ramos said, as she looked over IDs. "We hear such positive comments, as hundreds of people come through each year."

Indeed, the long line stayed steady, with no sign of impatience, despite the lack of impatiens.

"I don't mind this taking so long," Geneva King said, as she and her mother Lenora King approached the long tables of pink, white, and purple blooms. "These are so pretty and we're so thankful we are taking them home at no charge."

Jacqueline Brownwell also was happy that she would be able to add to her garden with no expense.

"They cut my hours at work so buying extras has become rare," she said. "Making my yard pretty is important to me, so I'm happy to be here. I'm glad the city of Hammond cares enough to do this."

Her neighbor Kiki Long agreed.

"I believe the city wants to see beauty in everyone's yard," she added. "You can tell by the turnout today that all these Hammond people want that too."

Moving into a new home with a long to-do list motivated Lisa Hart's appearance. Sprucing up her new yard was number one on that list.

"I'm going to start with flowers around the house," she said. "Then we'll see about a vegetable garden. I have to start small."

Manning the tables laden with hundreds of colorful plants were siblings Ashley and Ryan Gordish, volunteers who are in the city's College Bound Program.

"This is part of our community service, but it's also a lot of fun," Ashley said. "And the Hammond residents are really enjoying themselves."

Indeed, people were making new friends as they waited in line and also as they were heading out the door with their greenery, sharing gardening tips.

"This flower distribution makes us feel good," Patrice North said. "It shows our city really cares about us. You don't see this anywhere else. We love Hammond."

Sue Ellen Ross is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.


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