Cheryl Hampton grew up on a farm in Marianna on the same property where her great-great-grandfather lived. He grew lots of vegetables in his garden including sweet potatoes, greens and okra. Cheryl still lives and gardens on the property today. When her nieces and nephews come to visit she shows them everything she knows, and they’re always excited to learn.
In 2011, Cheryl started a program called Youth Community Gardner. It was flourishing by 2014 and expanded to help more people including patients at the Lee County Cooperative clinic where they provided fresh vegetables for patients.
“I’ve always wanted children to know where fruits and vegetables come from,” Cheryl said. “And to know what it means to eat healthy and be healthy, and that not everything they eat comes from a box or a bag.”
Cheryl said one of her students, a 3-year-old girl, was amazed when she plucked an onion from the ground.
“I thought onions grew on trees!” the girl exclaimed to Cheryl.
“The look on her face was so amazing. It told me she wanted to learn,” Cheryl said.
Cheryl also teaches the children about portion sizes, which vegetables are high in calcium, iron and other nutritions, and how different vegetables thrive depending on the season.
Around 2014, Chery learned her childhood home that had been in her family for generations was facing foreclousre. It came as a shock to her because she thought the house had long been paid off. For months she was harassed by debt collectors. She wasn’t getting any straight answers on what to do to save the property. One day she saw a billboard from Southern Bancorp that said “What if a Bank was more than just a bank?”
She was soon connected with Vida Fielder, a credit counselor with Southern Bancorp.
“Vida contacted that particular bank. Come to find out the mortgage company no longer existed. She told me, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to take care of this for you.’ And I told her, I said, ‘Vida, it’s not the house. It’s the history behind the house. It has been here since the 1700s.’ When i saw that sign I thought to myself, I am the ‘what if.’’’
Southern Bancorp worked with Cheryl to save her family home. And Cheryl is back to focusing on her garden and helping children grow.