Unsung Hero: Orlan Mays

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By WSIL Manager

CARBONDALE -- On a small plot of land on Carbondale's north side- Orlan Mays tends to his organic garden. It's early fall, but Orlan says there's still lots of time to grow.

"You get your beets, your carrots, you get your turnips and your collard greens, you get your kale, chard," says Orlan.

As director of "Gift of Love" charity, Orlan donates his harvest to those in need. He also teaches kids what it takes to grow a garden.

Through the Healthy Communities Coalition, Kris Sherrill with Southern Illinois Healthcare learned all about Orlan's efforts.

"Orlan is a man of character- who is using his time and talents to not only teach kids to make healthy choices for their bodies- but to also grow up to be young men and women of character for our community," says Kris.

Orlan also teaches the value of a sustainable organic garden- given the high cost in stores.

"Organic produce is kind of the best you get, and when it's fresh right here- freshly picked- that's really the best you can get," says Orlan.

This garden guru is continually researching new strategies... whether it involves compost, or the bio-intensive method of planting-- resulting in raised beds.

"In the long-term I'll be planting more plants, growing more food, with less space."

It's all in an effort to provide for his community, and teach the next generation how to live a healthier life.

"He's a very unassuming man, he certainly is Unsung, and he certainly is not doing this for any credit," says Kris. "He does this because he just really cares about kids."

"You get something outside of monetary rewards. And it's a reward that's unseen- but it surely will follow you," Orlan says.

Orlan seeks to enhance his Gift of Love charity garden with fencing and refrigeration. Donations can be sent to 1809 West Main Street in Carbondale. You can also call (618) 525-2676 for more information.
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