MONTGOMERY, Ala. --
Staff Sgt. Montaski McCoy has been planting seeds in a poor, crime ridden West Montgomery neighborhood for the past three years. While planting various vegetables, his real ambition is to sow seeds of dreams of a brighter future for kids and young people in the area.
As a Reservist, McCoy is an Air Terminal Operations Center Specialist with the 25th Aerial Port Squadron. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Auburn University, but currently dedicates his time and resources to serving his community.
McCoy acquired his first of three overgrown lots and began converting them into community gardens, in 2013. "I didn’t have a real clear vision, but I felt the call to just go and start working on the property. My intent was to offer kids in the area an alternative to the smoking, drugs, and violence that surrounds them."
Using a borrowed pick axe, McCoy began breaking up the hard ground and removing the bricks and stones from the sections of the lots he intended to plant. As he worked, adults and kids stopped by to ask what he was doing. Some who stopped stayed for a bit and started helping him. Once the ground was broken, he began planting tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, collard greens, Brussel sprouts, squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon, and other various fruits, vegetables, and herbs. When kids would come and ask to help, McCoy said he’d have them take measurements, write them down, and do some basic math. He also explained to the kids what each plant in the garden produces.
The produce from the plots is given away to neighbors and those who’ve helped him clear and plant the vegetables.
"Gardening has provided a common interest, and an avenue to start conversations with people in the community," McCoy said. "There is one young man I’ve been talking with who would like to do better than he has so far. He’s asked about my military service and now is preparing to take the ASVAB test so he can join the military and better himself."
McCoy also volunteers at a local Salvation Army shelter. "One day at the shelter I saw this family of five who were there because they didn’t have anything, yet they seemed happy, enjoying having a meal together. When some of my friends who are doing well are unhappy, I take them with me to volunteer to get a different perspective."
When he needed help to clear trees, brush and junk from one of his garden lots, he paid shelter residents to perform the work. In a week, he and his new team of friends were able to complete a job that would have taken him several weeks working alone.
Elenor Saloman, a elderly resident living near one of McCoy’s gardens said, "His garden looked really nice last year. I enjoyed seeing it. It is great that he shares the garden with kids in the neighborhood so they can see where their food comes from. We have a lot of vacant lots and I think it would be nice if more young people had a chance to plant seeds and grow something they can eat."
McCoy summed up his intentions saying, "I’m trying to sow some seeds, to plant some visions in the minds of the kids. I hope to mentor, to inspire them, to see that they can do better and fulfill their dreams."