The Center for Children & Young Adults (CCYA) is located in Marietta, Georgia on a 4.5 acre campus. CCYA is a 501©3 group home dedicated to providing safe and suitable housing, youth development activities and comprehensive supportive housing services for at-risk homeless youth ages 12-20 who have been abandoned, abused, neglected, or sexually exploited. Youth come to CCYA because their parents are unwilling, unable or unavailable to care for them. While at CCYA, youth attend public school, get part time jobs and learn skills so that they can one day live independently.

We find funds to send our youth to their senior prom, let them be on the football team or cheer leading squad, and purchase uniforms for part-time jobs at Chick-Fil-A. We send them to summer camps, enroll them in Drivers Ed, and seek mentors for them. We are not the ordinary group home for foster kids. We take in kids from Metro Atlanta and all of Georgia, but primarily from Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Douglas counties. At this time, our census is 71% female and 74% are black. Getting all of these kids to graduate high school is a major achievement, and we then help them transition to trade school, the armed forces, a job or college. In a world where the overall graduation rate for foster youth is 55.3% (graduation rate for other youth is 87.3%), our kids far exceed that grim statistic.

CCYA is a very special place in that we provide our kids with a nurturing atmosphere in a home-like cottage setting. For almost 20 years, Cobb and Douglas County Master Gardeners have volunteered at CCYA cultivating the atmosphere. What began with a single raised bed where tulips and herbs were planted has grown to a 1.5 acre succession of gardens that together provide fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and more to over 100 youth annually at The Center. Two Master Gardeners have been with the project since it’s inception…Maureen Lok (Cobb) and Toni Moore (Douglas). Maureen Lok served on the Board of Directors of CCYA and was Board Chair for 8 years. She continues as MG Director of the Garden Project and Emeritus Trustee. Toni Moore, Douglas County Master Gardener is Co-Director of the Garden. The garden is funded by Cobb Master Gardeners, Master Gardeners of Georgia, Pure Farmland Growth Project, the Food Well Alliance, the Peachtree Garden Club, Captain Planet Foundation, the National Garden Association and private donations.

 The core of the garden area at CCYA is the Veggie Patch where carrots, green beans, peas, cucumbers, onions, squashes, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, collards, peppers and more are planted. Nearby is an herb garden where an assortment of common herbs are grown to spice up food in the CCYA kitchen. In the Berry Patch blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are grown–44 pounds of blackberries in one season. Nearby, several fig trees reside. The Hoop House is a structure where we grow peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, collards and other plants year-round. Melon Hill is where watermelon, cantaloupe, squash and corn are grown. The Flower Garden is where cone flowers, asters, hydrangea and other colorful flowers and pollinators are grown. The final piece of the garden area is “The Egg Plant”, a chicken coop where a flock of one dozen chickens reside. These feathered ladies provide over five dozen eggs a week to our kitchen for scrambled eggs, frittatas and other dishes to nourish our kids.

 Part 2–More About the Gardens & Community Gardening @ CCYA, will be posted on 3/10. Anyone interested in helping with the CCYA gardens can reach me, Maureen Lok, via email at: lokme@hushmail.com. Photos provided by Maureen Lok.