By Holly Glen Gearhart,
Julia V. Morris passed away in 1999, but her legacy of serving the community lives on, benefiting Monroe residents who frequent the Sky Valley Food Bank and the volunteers who run it. The quarter-acre garden produces hundreds of pounds of fresh veggies a year that go to the food bank. Newly picked-off-the-vine vegetables are hard to come by at any food bank, but thanks to the generosity and time donated to the garden by local clubs it continues to provide nourishment to those who might otherwise have no vegetables at all.
Reminiscent of the wartime “victory garden” movement, the JVM Garden demonstrates what can be done for others in times of need. Originally, victory gardens sprouted out of need in communities in the U.S., England and Canada during the First and Second World Wars.
The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. displays a working victory garden on the museum grounds.
“From California to Florida, Americans plowed backyards, vacant lots, parks, baseball fields, and schoolyards to set out gardens. Children and adults fertilized, planted, weeded, and watered in order to harvest an abundance of vegetables,” according to the Smithsonian Institution website. “Victory gardens were vegetable gardens planted during the world wars to ensure an adequate food supply for civilians and troops…”
Julia Morris founded Monroe’s food bank when she was involved with the Monroe School District’s Christmas Food Basket Drive. Seeing that there was more need than only at holidays, she was ignited to begin a year-round food program. Such a thing was not in existence in the 1970s, and it is reported that she often gave food from her own shelves to those who had none.
The Sky Valley Food Bank had homes in many unofficial buildings until 1987 when came to stand where it is today, at 233 Sky River Parkway. The City of Monroe officially declared the food bank building the “Julia V. Morris” building for her dedication to others.
The quarter-acre Julia V. Morris Centennial Garden is next to the food bank and attended by volunteers from the Monroe Garden Club, East County Senior Center, Monroe Boys and Girls Club and multiple volunteers.
Morris’ daughter, Julie A. Morris, took over her mother’s duties as executive director and served until March 2010, when she retired. The food bank continues its mission under the care of the current director, Neil Watkins.