Flower power is brightening a corner of downtown that might not be considered the happiest of places.
Outside the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and Holding Center, Susie Wilkie Zagorski is planting geraniums, forget-me-nots, daisies and other varieties in long-neglected patches of earth.
Wilkie Zagorski, a receptionist in Sheriff Timothy B. Howard’s administrative offices at Delaware Avenue and Church Street, relishes going out on her lunch breaks and at the end of her shifts to create this haven of color.
She began the beautification project last year, yanking weeds and clearing away rubbish to plant flowers in their place – and paying for the plants out of her own pocket.
Her reward has been the positive feedback from passers-by and coworkers, who were so impressed they took up a collection of $50 so she could purchase mulch.
“People will tell me they were having a bad day and then they see the gardens and tell me they feel better,” Wilkie Zagorski said. “It definitely perks everyone up.”
Undersheriff Mark N. Wipperman agrees.
“Susie took an area around the administrative offices and holding center that really wasn’t that eye-friendly and created flower gardens,” Wipperman said. “It changes the whole look and puts smiles on the faces of our employees.”
As Wilkie Zagorski readies her floral showcase for this year, her green-thumb endeavors have expanded to include pieces of driftwood she has scavenged from the Erie Basin Marina not far from her home in the Marine Drive Apartments.
And while Wilkie Zagorski feels rewarded by the enthusiasm of those who stop to take in her adopted garden, she said the greatest joy is in the work itself.
“I love to get my hands in the dirt,” she said. “It makes all my worries go away.”