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Sanford resident returns to her roots to build community garden with Brick Capital CDC

Residents in a once-impoverished Sanford neighborhood are preparing to harvest the first fruits of their expanded community garden this summer – the latest visible symbol of renewal and prosperity created by Brick Capital Community Development Corp., community partners and a woman who grew up in the neighborhood. 

The 2.78 acre Peace and Unity Garden will officially open June 22 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It will feature more than 40 gardening plots that will allow 38 families to grow their own vegetables and provide produce for local food banks.

“We’re excited about the Peace and Unity Garden and very pleased that it brings so many local residents together,” said Helen Lovett, Brick Capital’s resource and marketing officer. “It does the soul well to drive by the garden and see one of the neighbors relaxing peacefully, reading a good book.”

The community garden is the brainchild of Crystal McIver, a Sanford native who grew up with her adoptive mother in the high-poverty neighborhood. She recalls that many of the homes in the neighborhood were demolished during Urban Renewal in the 1960s, and crime became a problem. The problems were not addressed until the mid-1990s, when Brick Capital CDC was established and began building new energy-efficient homes for families with low- to moderate-incomes.

In 2012, McIver began working to build a community garden in her old neighborhood as a tribute to her mother. She established support in the community and with several local businesses. Brick Capital supplied the water. The garden became a gathering place for the community, where families come together and grow their own affordable, fresh produce.

This spring, McIver asked Brick Capital to help expand the garden. Work began in April with a kick-off event for local residents, community organizations and gardening experts. McIver said that she is looking forward to the first harvest from the Peace and Unity Grow to Give, a special area of the garden designated to supply fresh nutritious vegetables for the local Bread Basket and Christian Unity Outreach organizations.

The public is invited to join residents at the ribbon-cutting in the Hudson Avenue cul-de-sac on June 22 at 10 a.m.

Brick Capital Community Development Corp. is a nonprofit organization that works with public and private investors to provide affordable housing, education, human community and economic development to improve the quality of life in Lee County. For more information, visit

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