Ex-prisoner's veges feed homeless

SHELLEY GRECO
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013
Mike O'Grady
JASON OXENHAM/ Fairfax NZ

GREEN FINGERS: Mike O'Grady is a former prisoner who turned his life around and is now growing veges with which he feeds his neighbours and the homeless.

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Prisoner of 20 years Mike O'Grady is now putting his horticultural know-how to good use and the community is tasting the benefits.

The Grey Lynn resident moved to his current shared lodgings two years ago and when the manager declined his request to create a garden, he went ahead and did it anyway.  

Now the blooming garden supplies vegetables for a weekly community lunch provided by the People of Auckland Community Trust. Up to 80 people attend each week, most of whom are homeless.  

Having spent more than 20 years in prison, the ''naughty boy turned good'' is pleased he can give something back to his community.

''I'm feeding 80 people out of the garden. It feels good to give something to somebody, instead of taking,'' the keen gardener said.

O'Grady created on a tarseal driveway at the back of the lodge and hauled compost up a steep bank for weeks with only a fish bin. 

The garden now spans three layers and produces a mass supply of produce including tomatoes, capsicums, pumpkins, butternuts and watermelons.

O'Grady said he gets heaps of satisfaction from giving something to others.

''It feels good to be able to do something for somebody less privileged than myself. When you're going out the back door you seem to get a different view of life.'' 

As well as feeding the community every week, the fully trained gardener also provides vegetables to residents in the lodge, a nearby pensioners' home and next-door neighbours. 

O'Grady appreciates the help he received himself from the trust.

''I have cancer. I couldn't get out of bed for three or four weeks at a time and they brought me food and things. 

''They have a good outlook. They do good things.''

People of Auckland Community Trust manager Wade Gadsby said O'Grady's efforts have been impressive.

''It's inspiring to see others being inspired to give something back.''

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- Auckland Now

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