A St. Charles County woman is growing her garden with a mission.
Debbra Ardnt lives in O’Fallon, Missouri. Every year, her backyard garden is full of fruits and vegetables. But she doesn’t only grow the food for herself.
She calls it the “Our Giving Hands Garden.” Most of what she grows, she gives away to low income elderly people and homeless people in her neighborhood and community.
“A lot of these people have no other food,” Ardnt said. “Our elders are very proud. They are not going to tell you that they don’t have food.”
Arndt and her husband started the garden more than two decades ago when they lived in Illinois. After he died, she moved to St. Charles, but continued her mission.
With every visit, she brings more than just food to her elderly friends.
“Speaking to that person. Acknowledge that person, I tell people. Let them know that someone cares,” she said. “Because a lot of these people, they don’t have anyone.”
Arndt says she was called to this mission after growing up in hardship. She said her mother abandoned her and her siblings at an orphanage in St. Louis when she was four years old. She spent her childhood in and out of foster homes and was on her own by the time she was 16 years old.
She knows what it feels like to go hungry. She is empowered by the ability to grow food to feed others.
“It gives me, I guess, a burst of energy inside my heart. It actually gives me a purpose,” she said.
“When my husband died five years ago -- it was very hard. I took care of him for a very long time and he was sick. And I tell you, [the garden] gives me a reason to get up every day.”
Arndt said she delivers food to about 40 different people weekly, and also delivers hot meals. Some of the people she visits live in her neighborhood. Others are hidden throughout the community.
She also makes pickles and jams from her harvest, then sells those to make more money to manage the garden. She also sells paintings and other artwork.
Arndt hopes her work will inspire others.
“I am trying to ask other people to grow a garden in your own neighborhood. Take care of your neighbors,” she said.