Couple transforming Detroit neighborhood with community garden, pocket park

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A husband and wife are working together to transform their Detroit neighborhood. They've started a community garden and now have plans to take their project even further, but they need some help to reach their goal.

"We saw a family one day pulling a wagon," said Barbara Matney. "They weren't asking for money; they were asking for food. My husband and I decided we wanted to do something."

That was the day everything changed.

Barbara and Joe Matney wanted to bring life and love back into their Warrendale neighborhood. They decided to create the "In Memory Community Garden" in a lot that backs up to their Detroit home off Auburn Street.

Last year, using money they were able to scrape up and volunteers who donated their time, they were able to grow a garden that yielded bushels and bushels of fresh fruit and vegetables that fed hungry families.

"The whole deal with it, is if you volunteer and help with the garden you get to take food for your family," Barbara said. "The surplus goes to local food banks and pantries."

But this year the Matneys are looking to expand their efforts. Through the Detroit Land Bank, they bought neighboring lots for only $100 each. A nearby abandoned house will soon make room for an even larger community garden. Then, across the street at the corner of Whitlock and Minock, they plan to put in a pocket park in hopes of bringing neighbors of all cultures and ages together.

"Our nearest park is almost a mile away," Barbara said. "The children around here need something to do. We've watched the children through the years play in these abandoned houses and on the abandoned property. It's just not safe."

Their nonprofit organization recently won the Project Evergreen contest - which renovated this lot as a safe green space for families, but the grant didn't include money for play equipment.

That's why the Matneys created a GoFundMe page.

"What we want to do is be able to create a space across from the garden for parents and grandparents who can still keep an eye on their children," Barbara said. "While they are over here in the garden."

They also plan to use the empty lots to create a veterans' flower garden and an orchard.

It is a slow process but a commitment the Matneys, who lived here for nearly 30 years made to their community, hoping their labor of love will help bring the neighborhood back to the way it once was.

"It started off slow," said Matney. "People were confused that the garden was our personal garden. They started off driving slow and watching us and all of a sudden they started stopping and asking what we were doing and they were very happy and thanking us for creating such a beautiful space."

If you are interested in donating: CLICK HERE or if you can't afford to donate, the Matneys are also accepting help from those who wish to volunteer.