It does not take long for Peter to start talking about plants and the rooftop garden where he feels most at home. It actually takes no time at all, since he introduces himself as “Peter the Plant Man,” a name affectionately given to him by the staff at our East 12th Street Residence. “You know why I like plants?” Peter will ask you. “I like them because they are constantly growing and changing. Because when you take care of them, it not only makes you happy, but everyone around you happy too.”
Things weren’t always happy for Peter, who, seven years ago, was living at a homeless shelter in Queens after a long struggle with drug use. About to be discharged from the shelter, afraid that he would not survive the upcoming New York City winter if he had to live on the street, Peter was scared. When he was referred to and accepted by East 12th Street Residence, he was elated. Now, at the age of 65, Peter credits the program with saving his life. “I never imagined that I would have peace of mind. I never thought I would have this kind of purpose.”
Peter sees his gardening as a way to contribute to the building, and thanks Volunteers of America-Greater New York for all they have done for him. He grows vegetables for everyone and relishes being able to share the flowers he has grown with his fellow residents. Peter, like our program, is well known and respected in the surrounding neighborhood and last year was asked by the principal of a local elementary school to create and maintain their garden. Peter loves the idea that his passion for gardening is now being passed on to school children.
“I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I like the people and the staff and my room. The garden is obviously my favorite, but I like how much there is to do here and how someone is always checking on you to make sure you are happy and healthy.”
“I never imagined that I would have peace of mind. I never thought I would have this kind of purpose.”
Like so many of our residents, Peter anticipates living at East 12th Street for the rest of his life. Many, like Peter, do not have families able or willing to care for them, and we, as their “chosen family” are there instead.
The rooftop garden that is Peter’s refuge was created by Deloitte employees who continue to replenish it every year. Learn how your team can get involved.