Oasis Gardens, a community garden project operating as a part of The Living Legacy Center in Cy-Fair, was founded as a way to instill a sense of community, both among volunteer gardeners as well as the patrons who stop by the weekly farmers market to peruse the goods for sale. In the age of COVID-19, that sense of community has become even more important.

The garden was started in January 2019 by Don Graves, one of the center's clients who was looking for an outlet to give his life purpose, said Birgit Fisher, who helps run the garden as an administrative assistant with the Living Legacy Center. The center has been working to provide resources free of charge to veterans, senior citizens and individuals with disabilities in Cy-Fair since 2015. Gardening, Fisher said, can have therapeutic benefits for people with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, conditions she said are seen in many Living Legacy Center clients.

Over a short period of time, the endeavor grew to the point where it had around 25 core volunteers coming in on a regular basis, Fisher said. The garden also grabbed the attention of donors, who helped fund the installation of a sprinkler system and the construction of a greenhouse, which allows volunteers to plant seedlings on site instead of having to do so at their homes.

The farmers market, which runs from around 9-noon every Saturday, offers a variety of organic, seasonal produce, herbs and flowers on a donation basis, meaning patrons pay whatever they are able to, Fisher said. In the age of COVID-19, more people are finding the garden a source of vital nutrition in the face of financial strife, she said.

"We have definitely seen the impact the layoffs have had in our neighborhood and our community," Fisher said.

Since the pandemic hit Houston—along with the ensuing need to socially distance—volunteers now come out in smaller numbers, and donations have fallen, an outcome that Fisher said was understandable.

"Any extra income [people have] is certainly not spent on nonprofit organizations," she said. "I think that is almost carried over from [Hurricane] Harvey. I know nonprofit endeavors really took a back seat after Harvey, and it was very difficult to recover, especially for the very small nonprofit organizations like ours."

However, Fisher said the goal of the garden was never to generate a profit. Instead, she said it was something that grew organically to fill a need within the community. The benefits are felt for people like Graves—who experience therapeutic benefits from being outdoors and cultivating plants—as well as the Cypress community as a whole, she said.

"We have people who drive by on daily or weekly drive who love to see how things grow over the period," she said. "We have people stop by and tell us it gives them a little hope to see it."

For those who stop by the garden to shop, Fisher said all donations are appreciated, and no one should feel embarrassed for not being able to make large contributions.

"Because we are so localized and so involved in the community, they really have no idea how far we can stretch that dollar or $10," she said. "Our funds stay directly within the Cypress area. They go back to the community."

Learn more about Oasis Gardens here.