Lois Martin-Uscianowski no longer lives in the city, but she has a dream of creating a gardenlike atmosphere on the South Side and planted fruit trees to get that dream started.
Someone, however, does not share her vision, or her dream, as many of those trees have been uprooted and stolen.
Martin-Uscianowski’s grandmother at one time lived in a house in the area of Williamson Avenue and Erie Street on the city’s South Side. The family has long since left the area, and the house, along with several others in the immediate area, is no longer standing, but Martin-Uscianowski feels it is her duty to put something beautiful in the area.
“Four-and-a-half years ago, I was on my way to church, and God told me to put a garden on my grandmother’s former land. I blew it off at first, but I rode by and realized there are no houses on that side of the block and that just bothered me so much,” she said.
Martin-Uscianowski touched base with a group called Grow Youngstown, an organization dedicated to creating economically viable and interdependent local food systems.
She acquired not only the land on which her grandmother’s house once sat, but 10 lots adjacent to the location. A grant from the Raymond J. Wean Foundation made it possible to purchase and plant 16 fruit trees on the property in October.
One of the trees was snatched from the ground the day after it was planted. This week, however, six more trees have been taken from the garden, leaving only nine of the original 16 trees standing.
She filed a report with police Monday.
To date there have been two apple trees, two pear trees, a peach tree, a cherry tree and an apple tree taken from the property. Each tree cost about $45 to purchase, and there is no money left in the grant to replace the stolen trees.
“It’s very disheartening when you put this much into it and they just get stolen. It is just terrible,” she said.
This year Martin- Uscianowski wanted to create a community garden, planting sunflower beds, pumpkin patches and four raised garden beds for senior citizens and the disabled. She said the thefts will not deter her from her plans, but those responsible should think about the damage done to their community.
“When people steal and damage like this, all they are doing is giving the outside world the feeling that their bad beliefs are true, and they are not true. Most people here are hardworking, good people,” she said.