Ryan Blass, 31, has started a new initiative in downtown Sarasota in an effort to aid the homeless population. Garden of Eden Project aims to provide cold water and organic food to those in need. This, however, is only the first step of the plan. Ryan and his team are currently looking for land near the downtown area to cultivate fresh fruits and vegetables. The gardens would provide free and healthy food to the community. They will be overseen by the people who the food is being grown for and provide not only nourishment that is desperately needed, but also a sense of pride, purpose and hope.
Ryan first came up with the idea when he was on a walk downtown with his daughter. Olivia, only 11, saw a homeless man sitting on a street corner when she decided to walk away from her dad and towards him. She handed him the few dollars that she had in her pocket. When Ryan asked her why she did that, she said that she could tell that he was in a bad place and just wanted to do what little she could to help. Inspired by his daughter’s generosity, Ryan decided that he wanted to whatever he could as well. One morning soon after, he woke up early and made 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He walked around the downtown area and handed them out to as many people as possible, but on his journey, he learned that all they really wanted was cold water. This began 6 months ago and since then he has handed out thousands of bottles of water to our homeless population, but he isn’t done yet.
Ryan has only been in the area for a little over a year, but he is very familiar with the city’s unsavory reputation when dealing with the homeless. Garden of Eden Project is by no means trying to get into any type of political debate. They are just looking to provide basic needs to the people who need it the most. Garden of Eden Project has been working closely with city officials to shape its future plans. They are currently in the process of awaiting their 501(c)(3) approval to become a tax‐exempt nonprofit organization. As of now, they have a team of eight, but they welcome anyone who is looking to donate food, money or time. If you would like to get involved, please visit their website at www.GardenofEdenProject.org or follow their pages on Facebook and Instagram.
photos by Ryan Blass & Dylan Jon Wade Cox (DJWC Photography)