MILLCREEK — Hands big and small dug into rich soil Monday afternoon when former NBA player Thurl Bailey, schoolchildren and other partners came together to plant a children's garden at the Bud Bailey Apartment Community.
Bailey, in his role as ambassador to Utah's refugee community, was joined by his daughter Breelle to help plant the raised garden beds at the apartment complex owned and managed by the Housing Authority of Salt Lake County.
The raised garden beds were built and provided by the humanitarian arms of Utah companies Goal Zero, which manufactures and sells portable solar power devices, and Barebones, which makes garden tools and grow bed kits among other products. Barebones donated gardening tools so Bud Bailey residents can tend the gardens.
"It's really beautiful," said Bud Bailey resident Abdul Hashi, a refugee from Somalia who helped plant the garden.
"It's going to be so green and beautiful this summer. It smells good now," said Hashi, 19, who will graduate from East High School next month.
Bailey said he and the Utah Refugee Center were pleased to take part in a partnership that would help improve the lives of refugee families that live at Bud Bailey. The complex also serves refugees resettled in Salt Lake County, houses homeless families and individuals and also has affordable and market-rate housing units.
"I'm most excited that my daughter asked me if she could come down and help out," he said.
Breelle Bailey, who attends Arizona State University and plays on its volleyball team, plans to spend the summer working with refugee youth programs overseen by the Utah Refugee Center, said executive director Deb Coffey.
Bailey was appointed the state's refugee ambassador by Gov. Gary Herbert about a year ago. Bailey said he has learned a great deal about the state's refugee population and service providers that assist their resettlement. About 50,000 refugees live in Utah, the vast majority in Salt Lake County.
Private-public partnerships such as the raised gardens at the Bud Bailey Apartment Community are key to serving refugees' needs, he said.
"There's a lot more to do" with the refugees statewide, Bailey said. "But it warms my heart to see kids running around, laughing and planting a garden. It's a good day."
Volunteers from Barebones and Goal Zero constructed the garden beds over the weekend and finished filling them with soil Monday.
Once the children who live at the complex got home from school Monday afternoon, they were invited to plant the raised beds with tomatoes, squash, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, beets, onions and garlic. The children will tend the garden as part of an after-school program at the complex, said Yvette Melby, services coordinator for the Bud Bailey Apartment Community.
Hali Abdi, also a refugee from Somalia, said she looks forward to a bountiful harvest.
"It is a good garden," she said.