True Grit: New Garden Fosters Community at UVa

Behind Grit Coffee Bar on Elliewood Avenue, fourth-year English major Jacqueline O’Reilly is overseeing the creation of a community garden that could become a getaway spot for UVa students for years to come.

“UVa is a pretty stressful place,” she said. “The garden can become a place to de-stress, a place to promote mental well-being.”

The project, which operategard2s under the official title “The Grit Community Garden and Mental Wellness Initiative,” utilizes the outdoors to help students relax and work together to create something that benefits the community.

O’Reilly said that she got the idea for a garden after seeing the lot behind Grit, a place where she has been going since her second year at the university.

“The lot has always been empty, so I asked one of the baristas for the owner’s phone number to see if I could use the space for a garden,” she noted.

O’Reilly learned about the benefits of gardening and being outside from both a family-friend and a class here at UVa, so she has always associated gardening with good mental health.

“Gardening is relatively easy and a good mental practice. You hold yourself accountable for taking care of your plants, and you get a rewarding feeling from watching the plgardants grow,” she said.

In addition to being a place where students can promote their well-being, the garden also provides a sense of community, something that the current garden near O-Hill and first-year dorms lacks.

“I’m trying to make a community garden that’s more successful than the current one– one that embodies the aspect of community since it is not on Grounds and can be reached by more than just first-years,” O’Reilly explained.

In the preliminary stages of the project, O’Reilly contacted local farms and stores to receive donations for the garden. The fourth-year worked closely with HackCville’s Ignite team to get the garden up and running.  Currently the project is in phase two as O’Reilly is contacting UVa CIOs and mental wellness groups to sponsor different boxes in the garden. She is also looking for some community volunteers to help maintain the garden with the CIOs.

“UVa is amazing, but at the same time things can get difficult and it can get pretty hectic. Hopefully the garden can become a place to escape.”

Those looking to help with the garden should contact


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