District 1 Green Thumb Cultivates Wellness at Senior Center

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News 



Darlene Antone can be found outside the new District 1 Senior Center on almost any given day, but it wouldn’t be for chair volleyball, meals or workouts. Instead, she’s tending to the center’s garden area and newly sprouted plants, a welcome addition to the center. Antone, an elder from District 1, has been gardening at the center for the last year and has found joy in growing crops to share with fellow District 1 elders. 


“When I first started, I started small,” Antone said. “Then, each day I came in to water the plants, I talked to them and hoped they would grow, and they flourished.” She began with foods she knew the elders would enjoy, like watermelon, chilies and squash.


Antone helped with planning the senior center, including the outdoor garden. When the building was completed in early 2021, she took the initiative to start the garden and even invested her own resources to get it going. Currently, the garden is in raised bed garden boxes in a fenced-in area at the back of the building.


Her harvest from 2021 yielded enough for Antone to bag and distribute to elders throughout District 1.  Each delivery was an enjoyable occasion because of the happiness it brought to families. 


“All that I’m doing here is for the elders in the district and those that come here,” Antone said. “And I feel like we need to keep this [gardening] up because our ancestors were farmers.” This year she has expanded her selection to include chilies, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, squash, brussels sprouts and onions. In the future, she hopes to include gourds so the center can use them for craft projects. 


For Antone, the garden bridges two passions of hers: planting food and caring for elders.  Tending the garden keeps her active, and watching new seedlings grow brings hope and peace every time she visits, she noted.  And more importantly, the crops are good, healthy choices that provide nourishment. 


Antone hopes more people will start gardening so they can experience the same benefits as she has.  “Start a garden,” she said. “Gardens are good to have even if it’s just one plant, because this is part of who we are.”