AMBLER, Pa. -- "I believe what I do must benefit somebody and I have to see that," said Jeri "Momma J" Brockington.
After high school, Brockington spent two years working in the United States Army. But her commitment to service started even earlier than that.
She learned how to cultivate a strong community in her great-grandmother's garden. There, the matriarch would generously give away free food to her neighbors. It's a trait that Brockington would come to emulate in her retirement.
"When we moved here, I ran straight in this yard and visualized using every area of the space to grow food," she said. "I went door to door, introduced myself and encouraged my neighbors to grow."
As interest in gardening grew, so did Momma J's Country Gardening. Brockington would invite neighbors into her backyard for free produce, education, and bible verses. That translated to her YouTube channel, where she can reach an audience beyond her neighborhood.
"Money is not it," said Brockington. "Just a smile is what makes a difference to me."
But above the tomatoes and cucumbers in her garden, Brockington is cultivating strong relationships within her community.
"You can frequently go for years without knowing any of your neighbors," said Frank Dunsmore. "And whenever I came down to this area, she was one of the few people that was always around."
Neighbors have developed somewhat of a green thumb in Momma J's presence.
"I'm not the kind of person who grows plants, but she's done an amazing job with gardening and stuff like that," said Dunsmore. "If knowledge is power, she's given it away."
Brockington encourages others to think back to a simpler time and learn how to provide for one another. In the wake of pandemic lockdowns and the September 2021 tornado, it's become more important to her than ever.
"These are times when the only way we're going to get through it is that we work together," she said.