The 24 Hour Citizen Project (24HCP) Team is always learning, always growing, and never excited to see a project’s community impact halted for any reason. But, we also believe in being as honest and transparent as possible, and we know that not all projects are going to be forever. This doesn’t make them a bad idea or a failure; instead, they serve as a lesson for future teams (and for ourselves) that will drive us to work harder and do better for the communities we’re involved in. One such project is Adrian Perron’s Recovery Garden, which recently had to permanently cease operations.
The Perfect Project Idea
Adrian had a dream during the 2016 24HCP. He believed that growing a garden was not only a way to feed the hungry, but could also act as a form of therapy for individuals suffering from addiction. Working in partnership with Catholic Services of Acadiana and the LSU Ag Center, his “Recovery Garden” project would build a community garden near St. Joseph’s Diner that could help to sustain the homeless shelters’ mission of feeding the hungry with fresh produce while working to beautify an area that had, for a long time, been neglected by the community. The 24HCP felt Adrian’s idea perfectly paired with our own mission. It was a win from all sides: The Recovery Garden wasn’t just beautification or a subtle improvement of something the city needed, it was a real work of true, civic good.
“The project was unique, and its therapeutic element made it something memorable and necessary within our city,” states Butch Roussel, founder of the 24HCP. “It was something our backers knew would serve Acadiana well.”
Growing a Garden for Good
In 2012, Catholic Services of Acadiana had previously attempted to build a sustainable garden in partnership with the Lafayette Sheriff’s Office. That project had fallen prey to growing security concerns that far overshadowed its yield of fresh produce for nearby St. Joseph’s Diner, a part of Catholic Services that works to serve the homeless with hot meals and a place to rest 364 days a year. Adrian’s project would pick up where Catholic Services had left off while simultaneously offering a therapeutic project for clients of the Acadiana Recovery Center. The project was successfully marked as completed in the spring of 2017 and, for a time, it had a real impact on the diner’s mission.
Ben Broussard, Catholic Services’ director of external affairs, says that Adrian’s project helped to beautify the neighborhood and create some goodwill between the diner and the community. “There was a positive impact for several months in terms of fresh produce for St. Joseph’s Diner and it gave new access for stakeholders to be engaged in the work we do,” adds Ben. “We’ve always pushed to heighten the community aspect of local volunteerism and involvement. This project was a great example of that.”
Even Great Projects Fail
Eventually, Adrian’s project began to fall prey to many of the same issues that the garden had experienced in its former form. Maintaining the space had a number of security concerns associated with it that began to turn the project into a risk for Catholic Services’ campus and the surrounding community. What had started as something good quickly began to have a negative effect on the neighborhood and, at the end of 2017, Catholic Services was encouraged to bulldoze the garden and shutter Adrian’s project permanently.
While we hate to see the Recovery Garden’s impact fail for reasons outside of our control, the project served as a learning example to future teams and the 24HCP Selection Committee. Lastly, we couldn’t be more proud of Adrian and his team for the hard work and dedication they put into making the garden a reality.