Tupelo garden heist spurs generous act

TUPELO – A sad story about garden theft turned into a bountiful harvest for The Salvation Army this week.
Belden gardener Tony Roper donated fruits and vegetables to the Tupelo homeless shelter and soup kitchen Monday after reading about a garden heist the week before.
The Daily Journal reported Saturday that someone stole all the produce from an educational garden planted by the city in downtown’s Creative Commons.
The food was supposed to have been harvested last week and given to The Salvation Army.
Roper, who operates a produce stand on West Jackson Street near Romie’s Grocery, said he decided to replace the stolen food with his own harvest. He loaded several boxes of peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes and other items onto a trailer and hauled it to the shelter.
“It was very much appreciated,” said Susan Gilbert, director of social services for The Salvation Army of Lee, Union, Prentiss and part of Monroe County.
“We in the South we love our garden stuff, and this way we can serve them fresh vegetables in the meals,” Gilbert said. “It definitely will not go to waste. It will be put to good use.”
City environmentalist Sherrie Cochran, who oversees the educational garden, said Roper’s donation lifted her spirits after what had been a depressing week.
“This is the kind of person that restores your confidence,” Cochran said. “I am so grateful.”
Cochran said Roper gave The Salvation Army far more fresh food than what the city’s small garden could have produced. Although Cochran’s students missed out on harvesting their own fruits and vegetables, she said, the shelter and soup kitchen ended up benefiting from the whole situation.
Roper remained modest about his role.
“I wasn’t trying to get any glory out of it,” he said. “There are folks in the world who need a little help, and if you can do it from time to time, you get your reward just for doing it.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com. Also read her blog, The Government Grind, at NEMS360.com

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal