Colorful butterflies, tasty herbs and serenity - all thrive at this city sanctuary, where volunteers raise vegetables and community spirit.
- Story by Denise Jacobs, photos by Ellis Anderson
If you’ve never gardened before and are wondering what all the fuss is about, check out Ruth’s Roots, 130 Court Street, Bay St. Louis, an art space with a magical collection of butterflies, bees, bunnies, wheel barrows, sculptures, chickens, a fish pond with running water, a food pantry, and rows and rows of raised flower and vegetable beds.
The garden is 100 percent funded by private donors/grants. No municipalities support the garden, and it flourishes under the green thumbs of volunteer staff. Elise Epperson Deano is the founder.
On the one hand, Ruth’s Garden has the feel of a restorative sanctuary—on the other hand, the whimsical backyard garden you might build yourself if you only had a large enough yard. Deano laughingly calls it a “no judgment zone.”
Observant visitors will find both a statue of Buddha and a shrine of Mary. On any given day, someone might be practicing or teaching yoga or tai chi on site. All are encouraged to take what they need — from a slip or more of rosemary to a can of butter beans from the food pantry.
At Ruth’s Roots, community sprouts up alongside the zinnias. From its beginning, the garden has provided an opportunity for residents of all ages to come together and work toward a common goal — from its earliest roots as a resource for the Hancock County Drug Court to its current metamorphosis as a farm-to-table community garden — and help people do.
After one of the recent big storms — there have been so many — Deano received a phone call notifying her that a big tree had fallen on the chicken tractor — a chicken coop on wheels. She was out of town, but when volunteers arrived on site, they found the chicken coop buried beneath the fallen tree. The chickens were nowhere in sight.
City workers soon appeared with chain saws alongside a host of volunteers with work gloves. Within hours, the fallen tree had been carted away, log by log.
As luck would have it, the chickens had been roosting in a corner and thus survived. As of this writing, they are sharing lodging with the rabbits.
Deano says this kind of community action makes her heart happy. It’s also the kind of thing that illustrates the community of Bay St. Louis: at its best, we are a place where neighbor helps neighbor, a lesson learned — an outgrowth, you might say, of rebuilding — re-seeding, if you will, a community in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane.
There are many ways to support Ruth’s Roots. Some do so with garden gloves, others with financial contributions.
Supporters can also donate items to the Rummage Sale to benefit Ruth’s Roots, which will be held on Saturday, June 8, from 9am to 3pm at the law offices of Elise Epperson Deano at 10199 Highway 603, Bay St. Louis. Donations will be received through Wednesday, June 5. Call Deano at 228 466-9597 to make arrangements.
Ruth’s Roots is a 501c(3) under the Hancock Community Development Foundation, which has established a Go Fund Me account. If you would like to help rebuild the chicken coop or make possible a wooden fence, a graffiti wall, or any number of enhancements, your contributions are welcomed. Donations can also be made directly to the Foundation at 100 South Beach Blvd., Suite A, Bay St. Louis (39520) above the Hancock Whitney Bank Building.