GTECHer Spotlight: Linda Piso

Get to know…Linda Piso [one_half padding=”15px 15px 0 0″][/one_half]


Hometown: Pittsburgh – Knoxville neighborhood

Favorite burrito: If there was a chocolate burrito, that’d be her favorite

Favorite Activity: Walking slowly, but fast enough to finish the half-marathon before the yellow bus gets her!


About two years ago, Linda Piso noticed that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Knoxville was growing a very small garden in a very small patch of grass by their back exit. She got talking to some of the staff.

Linda was pretty excited about picking the first cucumber of her garden!
Linda was pretty excited about picking the first cucumber of her garden!

She said, “Hey, there’s a vacant lot next to my house behind the library. Why don’t you do your garden there?”.

Linda had noticed a need for gardening space in all pockets of Knoxville, from youth lacking summertime activities to senior citizens who could no longer garden because they live in apartments to the Bhutanese refugees looking for better food options, but she never saw herself as a gardener.

Seeing drug activity emerge in a vacant lot next door to her house that once belonged to her father was the impetus for her to purchase the lot next door.

“I just wanted to deter drug activity by my house, so I let the weeds grow really tall. I didn’t know what else to do, ” Linda said.

It did discourage the illicit behavior, but also became an eyesore for herself and her neighbors.

Armed with a partnership with the library and a dream of growing food,  all Linda needed was the expertise and support to make it happen.  Then one day last fall at a meeting at the Hilltop Alliance she was introduced to the ReClaim South Ambassador Program and knew it was going to be a good fit.

Like many of the ReClaim South Ambassadors, Linda was born and raised in the Hilltop and has noticed something changing. She explains,

“We [the Hilltop community] have a sense that there is change on the horizon. I think people feel that way, but we’ve been let down so long on this side of town that we’re afraid to get enthusiastic. We’re afraid to buy into something because we’re afraid it will just get taken away or nothing is going to happen. That’s why I have to stay focused. I don’t want to quit. I have a strong entity that wants to help. I have my neighbors who are really looking forward to having more space to do something.”

Linda believes the eleven ReClaim South projects will get more Hilltop residents thinking about what they can do, and how they can get involved in that positive change. She sees many people dedicated to the community in Knoxville, but there are few examples of what specifically they can put their passion into. She hopes her garden can be an example for her neighbors.

Over the past few months, with the dedicated support of youth from the Voices Against Violence program, neighbors, friends, and family, Linda has created an amazing space on what used to be an empty lot. She calls it 30/32 Grape Street Community Garden. Her garden beds are overflowing with well-loved vegetables, and a space for relaxing and creating has held some great gatherings of people. She is amazed by the progress in just a few short months and hopes to encourage her neighbors to get more involved in the community.

“When you see the residents come by, they’re so happy to come by and see something here instead of weeds,” Linda said. “I tell people, ‘Look what you can do.'”



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