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Compassion comes in many forms and, just sometimes, looks like a garden. In 2015, as Tom Green was contemplating retirement, he saw a Reformer article that showed a group of people standing around a small garden with the caption claiming that they were starting a help-yourself garden. He searched out details, discovered Marilyn Chiarello, founder of Edible Brattleboro, and promised to join her efforts once he retired.

Tom joined Edible Brattleboro in the summer of 2016 to help with building and maintaining garden beds and planting trees, all with the idea of supporting the vision of “Growing food everywhere for everyone!” All community members are allowed and encouraged to harvest what they need from the Edible Brattleboro gardens.

Thanks to Tom and a team of other volunteers, there are now cherry trees in front of the Municipal Center and other fruit trees at all the local elementary schools, plus gardens in front of Turning Point on Frost Street and in front of the Root Social Justice Center on Williams Street. There are also Edible Brattleboro gardens at Mountain Home Trailer Park, New England Center for Circus Arts, Foodworks, Brooks Memorial Library and at Great River Terrace, home to those who were previously homeless. Tom does much of the organizing for the installation of these garden beds. He proclaims that he takes joy in every harvest, is thrilled with every tomato and is “excited every time” someone new joins the effort. Needless to say, his exuberant personality brings people out from the shadows to help, and then take what they need.

Tom also assists with the operation of EB’s “Share the Harvest” stand at the Turning Point Garden on Sunday mornings. He helps design and lead make-and-eat events at the Food Co-op to teach vegan cooking.

This fall Tom hopes to organize the moving and reconstructing of a 20 by 40 foot tunnel green house in conjunction with the Retreat Farm to serve community needs.

Tom’s efforts are heroic and supported by the many volunteers who are making the streets and corners of Brattleboro overflow with possibility — and he vows to continue as long as his back and body allow.

He points to many inspirations for this deep commitment to garden growing and sharing. Growing older, he has become aware of his privileged upbringing and is driven to give his time and talents to growing a better and stronger community in Brattleboro. And Tom’s faith practice at the Guilford Community Church provides much hope, courage, and challenge to make the world a better place.

He loves to work in community with others, especially with the “funny, intelligent and wonderful” Edible Brattleboro crew. His life has been enriched by the friendships provided through this work. He has said he’d be embarrassed not to be volunteering in Brattleboro, an area so full of compassionate people looking for solutions to so many kinds of problems.

With Brattleboro voting overwhelmingly to become part of the international Charter for Compassion, the Reformer and The Commons have agreed to publish a “compassion story of the month.” This is the 40th. This and the following two stories focus on the Brattleboro Area 2020 Unsung Hero Awardees. Submissions, from Brattleboro area residents, for future publication, not to exceed 650 words, should be emailed to: or mailed to: Compassion Story of the Month, PO Box 50, Marlboro, VT 05344. Please include your name, address, phone number and email address. Earlier submitted stories will automatically be considered in subsequent months.