Vernon and Tiawanna Bryant have invested their lives into Marion through community gardening and helping neighbors while instilling life skills and healthy habits in local youth. Tiawanna is a life-long resident of Marion, and her husband Vernon, originally from Muncie, has lived in Marion for 42 years. Both worked for many years at the Thomson/RCA plant until it closed. Then, they pursued a family business of child care and foster care.
The Bryants are active in the Center City neighborhood. For over five years, they have helped maintain “The Flying Tomato” Community Garden, a 16,000 sq. ft. scenic garden developed by the Affordable Housing Corporation of Grant County in 2011 as part of a blight elimination / beautification project. The vast garden has fruits, vegetables, and flowers, a pergola, irrigation system, and also features picnic tables and a barbecue pit. The produce from the garden is intended to feed and nourish members of the Center City Neighborhood.
2019 marks the first year that the Bryants will oversee maintenance of the entire garden, and they invite anyone in the community to take part. Along with plants that are donated, the Bryants buy plants and perform general maintenance duties with the assistance of the children in their care. They teach the children various gardening skills, introduce quiet and peaceful time as well as play time, and also intertwine the work of gardening with scriptures and life lessons.
The Bryants also assist elderly and disabled neighbors through mowing and weeding. Tiawanna explained, “We can’t do it all, but we do what we can. These are our neighbors. If our yard looks good, we want theirs to look good, too. We were blessed to have the tools and ability to do these small things for them.”
The couple has also worked with the City of Marion to fulfill numerous needs in their neighborhood. They have done so through advocating while getting their own hands dirty and working together with neighbors and the City to get things done.