The End Of The Beginning – A Letter Of Appreciation To Ms. Maura

One of the best things about writing a blog is that it gives you the ability to write just what you are feeling at the moment.  Sometimes you are writing out of anger or there are times when you want to be humorous.  I have found myself writing sometimes because I feel the need to communicate something really important to me and to others.  You can speak your truth on a blog without fear of somebody editing it or trying to get you to change the content or the purpose of what you are trying to say.  So today’s blog is about communicating something that is important to me and to others.  And when I say others, I mean Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners!  It will be the truth…no filtering or editing.

On a recent day at the garden, we asked the gardeners what did they like about Ms. Maura.  Please bear in mind, we got a lot of “I don’t knows…I just like her”…or “She lets me ride in her car”, type comments too.  So we settled on the few presented below as the best of the best to share with you.

What is it about Ms. Maura?


What I like about her is that she would come to the garden to help us and show us how to do things. One time when we had a picnic in the garden when bought all of us ice cream, that’s what I like about her.


What I like about her is that she is nice and she keeps us focused. She always has great mints that she shares while we are working. And she is funny.


What I like about Ms. Maura is that she likes to come to the garden and help us in the garden.


Ms Maura is a kind lady. Once she gave me some books. Sometimes she helps when it’s hard to understand. I hope I see Ms Maura next year.


I like her because she is nice and she is a helper in the garden. She helps me and others by helping us plant flowers and seeds. She helps me plant the seed in the ground and explain how to do it.


I like Ms Maura because I can get a ride home from the garden and she is nice and sweet all the time.

Love Ashia

Ms. Odom-Brown

It’s that she genuinely likes the kids and is always willing to help. She comes all the way from Livonia or Taylor or Birmingham into the city to help them in the school garden. And it seems like that doing this is the most important part of her day.

When she is with the kids she makes them feel like they are important. She is happy to sit on the ground with them and show them how to harvest sunflower seeds. How wonderful that someone is willing to show that kind of patience to kids that are not their own. We need many more Ms. Maura’s in the world.

BE Culturally Exposed and the Planting the Seeds Garden are truly blessed to have a supporter like Ms. Maura.

So why am I sharing this story with you. Well, it is because too often people do not express what they should express when it is best to express it.  Maura has told me plenty of times that she is not out here for the accolades…the glory and fame!  For if you were to see her out there working with the kids, boys and girls, getting her hands dirty and her face smudged, on her hands and knees, you would think she is just another volunteer.  But her work cannot go without an acknowledgement.  How many sponsors, heads of businesses or mothers with three growing boys at home (including her husband, Jack) will you find working at a community garden after school in probably not the best neighborhood the city of Detroit can offer.  Not that it, the neighborhood, is a big challenge, but many people easily just say “no, not me”.

Maura told me about a recent trip to Chicago and as she and her family walked around they were so impressed by the diversity of the community and the seemingly lack of division between the cultures.  That’s how she sees the world.  Everybody working and trying to create a world of one culture…perhaps one race, no black, white or brown.  A melding of the races and cultures so that everybody looked at each other the same way…we are all sisters and brothers.

I look into her eyes and I see a memory there that shows that her life is a little more relatable to the lives of these kids than one would typically expect.  She is not a “silver-spooner”…no, not at all.  She understands what’s going on here…FOR REAL!  She relates…she hangs out…she’s a mother, not just a sponsor, with a very large and extended family.  She holds nothing back and she even corrects when it is appropriate to do so.  Believe it or not, she knows every child’s name (with me the best they can get is a grunt and a point), what they are interested in and how often they work at the garden.  Recently, there was a boy that had been away from the garden due to an illness, and on his first day back, they picked up on the exact conversation they had before he had left.  Two months had transpired between their last words to each other.  So strong is the bond!  There are these two young sisters, and to the uneducated eye (like mine), they look and act so much a like you would swear they are twins.  Not Maura, she knows their names, who’s who personality-wise and the difference in their ages.  I need more clients/sponsors like Ms. Maura.  The image of Maura sitting on the ground, hair falling gently over her face as she shows the kids how to get the seeds from the sunflowers was more than a Norman Rockwell moment.  Not too many artists, painters or photographers, would be capable of capturing the compassion and the tenderness of the teaching and sharing that was going on between her and the kids during that spell, and no writer, lyricist or poet, would find the right words within him or herself, that would properly described.

Lastly, I, on a personal level, have come to appreciate the depth of her character, the strength of her will and her ability to commit totally to what she feels and believes in.  I made the mistake of underestimating her once and I will never do that again.  I should have known from watching her play baseball on the company team a long time ago.  She was not the best hitter nor was she the fastest runner or slickest fielder; many a ball was knocked over her head or hit hard past her.  She made her share of errors too.  But nobody out worked…out hustled…or played with more desire and passion.  And when the bases were loaded, with two outs and Maura was standing at the plate…Maura came through time and time again.  She would find a way…yes, she did…she would find a way.

Ms. Maura goes about the days at the garden, working with the kids as if it was NO BIG DEAL!  Like I said, when she is out there she’s one of the gang.  But now she knows that we know that she knows that to us she is a big deal and that’s a feeling we will have for the rest of our days.  Maura is more than a sponsor to the kids (gardeners) of Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners, BE Culturally Exposed, the Planting The Seeds garden and Project Sweet Tomato.  She’s a friend…our BEST friend and that’s a really big deal!

Thanks to (Ms.) Maura Ryan-Kaiser,

her husband Jack Kaiser (for his handiness),

their two boys and

the entire Snelling organization,


the company volunteers

that worked at our garden!


Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners,

Bonnie Odom-Brown/BE Culturally Exposed,

Arthur Littsey/Project Sweet Tomato


12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Nancy Bowman said,

    I think Ms Maura is a pretty special lady…ALL kids want is to be loved…listened to and for someone to make them feel “special” and it seems she has a good handle on that. What an impact she has on those children…she is teaching them MUCH more than gardening…the lessons they are learning from her are lessons that they will take with them for the rest of their lives..a great example! One child at a time.

  2. 3

    Beverly said,

    Great job Art!

    • 4

      Thank you! It is easy when you have a wonderful subject to write about. As an alumni of Nolan too, you should be proud to hear that she and many others care about our old school and its students. It’s in good hands!

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