A community garden is bringing so much more than just food to the Pontiac community.
“The neighborhood’s getting better, crime's going down we’re seeing a lot of our friends we’ve seen through being homeless getting into jobs and being able to take care of themselves,” Coleman Yoakum said.
Coleman and Bethany Yoakum graduated college in Arkansas and set out to help communities in need. That landed them in Pontiac where they live out their mission of love.
“When we got to the neighborhood we started looking around, and about 40% of our neighbors didn’t have cars or reliable transportation,” Coleman said. “So we started saying ‘Where do you buy your groceries?’ ‘Where do you eat?’ ‘Where do you get your healthy food?’ and they said well we don’t and when we do we shop at the liquor store and the gas station at the end of the street.”
So they created the Micah 6 Community Garden nestled near Huron and Telegraph on Pontiac's west side. Coleman, Bethany, and their team have taken vacant land and abandoned homes and created a source of fresh fruits and vegetables for their neighbors.
“They’re repurposing our elementary schools here as an incredible community engagement center helping to promote entrepreneurship and the gardens,” Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner said. “These guys have turned Pontiac into a beautiful garden, and they’ve done that on some of our tax-foreclosed lots.”
The garden supplies the sprout fresh food store, a market providing fruits and vegetables available year round.
“Our ministry is love and taking care of people with food, and they take care of us by loving us back,” Bethany said.
Tanya Autrey is just one Pontiac resident who has felt that love.She was homeless when she met the Yoakums.
“When I met them I fell in love, and we started out here we didn’t even have heat in this building, but we would come here we would have our services of church, they would allow us to come over to their homes, use their bathrooms, take showers, get meals, she said.
Coleman and Bethany saw a need in the summer months when the kids are out of school.
“In the neighborhood, lots of kids stuff, the other night we had a bunch of kids hanging outside, and we said 'Hey let's all go play soccer',” Coleman said. “We’re a Meet Up and Eat Up site which is a summer food program that meets at the garden and then we do meals there. Last summer we did a bike drive where we fixed up and gave away about 75 bikes.”
Tanya is now back on her feet, no longer homeless, a testament to the change the Micah 6 community is making.
“The overpowering word here is love, love your neighbor,” Bethany said.
A vision, changing the minds, hearts, and bodies of people in the city of Pontiac.
“That just proves to me that there is a God that people have pure hearts and care about other people,” Tayna said. “It’s a beautiful thing, and for me it makes me want to pass it along blessings to other people as well. It’s almost an indescribable feeling that you cared that much about me when you barely knew me to feed me, that goes a long way.”
You can get involved with the Micah 6 Community and all the incredible work they’re doing in Pontiac through their website.