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Teen from Malverne to create ‘gratitude garden’ for front-line workers

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In March, Malvernite Sara Lombardi, of Girl Scout Troop 2600, took a social studies elective at Valley Stream North High School, in which she studied the use of victory gardens during World War II. Lombardi learned that vegetable gardens proliferated around the U.S. at the time to support the increasing number of impoverished families. That was the inspiration for her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

“I kind of drew the parallel between soldiers risking their lives in that war, and front-line health care workers that were out there risking their lives to keep us safe,” Lombardi said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lombardi, 16, decided to raise money for a “gratitude garden” to be planted at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, where her mother, Josephine, has worked as cardiothoracic assistant for the past seven years. The garden, which will feature tulips, aims to thank front-line workers for the sacrifices they have made during the pandemic. Donors can also plant a tulip in honor of a friend or family member. Lombardi said that the garden would be planted in the fall, because she was still in the process of collecting donations and getting a plaque to go with it.

“The whole point of planting tulip bowls is that even if you can plant them in the fall, they’ll bloom back every spring season,” she said. “I’m hoping that in the spring seasons to come, health care workers in the hospital can pass by the garden and feel appreciated.”

Lombardi, an incoming senior at Valley Stream North, said that her social studies teacher, Joseph Moniaci, inspired her to pursue the project. She pitched her idea to Moniaci via email, and he backed her immediately.

“I wish there were more people like you in the world,” Moniaci wrote Lombardi in an email.

She also had the support of her father, Mark, who has been letting as many people as possible know about her project. His daughter’s motivation, Mark said, is not unfamiliar.

“She was actually going to do it regardless of Girl Scouts or not,” he said, “because that’s the kind of kid she is. She does productive things for the people around her. It’s beyond words how impressed I am to see the work that’s she’s putting in, the diligence and the effort that she’s shown.”

Going forward, Sara said, she planned to work with local libraries, elementary schools and community leaders, in the hope of conducting lessons on the meaning of gratitude and sacrifice. In addition, she also hopes to reach out to other hospitals to help them create their own gratitude gardens.

“It’s not only about the fact that I’m creating a garden for essential health care workers,” Sara said, “but it’s about spreading that kind of outreach for kids and adults to the entire community. I’m hoping that this garden can help me develop a better connection with community members.”

To donate to her gratitude garden, go to https://bit.ly/3gnYPWj.