COMMUNITY SERVICE: The Community Garden on 106th Avenue and 173rd Street in southeast Queens has become a second home to Alberta Crowley for the past five years. Crowley, 70, volunteers at the garden, planting any and every kind of vegetable. She additionally works with a group of developmentally disabled individuals, helping them harvest their own creations.
Crowley said many of her participants cannot use their hands properly, so she handles plants for them.
“They really enjoy it,” she said.
She additionally works with seniors and is working on making the garden wheelchair-friendly to minimize any difficulty for those with decreased mobility.
Crowley is the only consistent volunteer the garden has seen, she said.
“Basically, I’m doing this by myself. Every now and then I get someone else to come out and work, but it’s a big harvest,” she said.
Five days a week, Crowley travels via two buses to the garden and does weeding, digging and planting.
BACKGROUND: The Queens Village resident has lived in the borough for roughly 50 years. When she was 15 years old, she came to New York from Mississippi by herself and worked various odd jobs, including one in electronics and another at a zipper factory.
Her love for gardening began at the age of six when her mother told her, “Whatever you’re going to eat, you have to work for it.”
With that, Crowley began to grow her favorites, such as turnip greens.
FAVORITE MEMORY: Crowley’s favorite memories of the garden are from when she first started years ago. She said she started late in the season and didn’t have any vegetables to plant. So she got resourceful, and dried out beans and okra from her own cabinet.
She also enjoyed working with the disabled, and said they love coming to the garden.
“It’s a challenge, but I know they appreciate it,” she said. “They look forward to harvesting.”
Crowley collects everything her participants grow, stores it and every Thanksgiving uses it to prepare a meal for them.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The 70-year-old admitted her biggest challenge is getting people to volunteer to help out at the garden.
“People come, and they see how hard the work is, then they don’t want to come back,” she said. “So that leaves me to do it.”
INSPIRATION: “It’s very inspiring to use your hands,” she said. “It’s very pleasant in the garden. It’s pleasant to work there,” Crowley said.
Aside from her love of gardening and being outside, Crowley said her volunteer work is also great exercise.
- Star of Queens: Harriet Krasnoff, head of the Outreach Program, Alley Pond Environmental Center
- Star of Queens: Carolina Peñafiel, founder and director of Local Project, co-owner of Fancy Fox
- Star of Queens: Walter Mugdan, president Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, Westmorland Association