By Christine Bryant
Nestled in the Hilltop is a haven for those finding their wings to fly.
Surrounded by homes, a once-empty lot at 519 S. Oakley Ave. now is flourishing with colorful flowers, milkweed and nutritious vegetables. It not only serves as a stop for butterflies in the neighborhood, it offers a sanctuary for families in the area who are struggling.
Esther Flores, who operates the nonprofit, 1DivineLine2Health, created the Hilltop Butterfly Garden as a beacon of hope for people suffering, especially from addiction.
“Our Hilltop children need to see how beauty comes together when little and big hands come together to create love versus inflict pain,” she said.
The garden is an extension of her organization, which provides Christ-centered care through a holistic approach to those who have no access to healthcare, including victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and injustice both locally and globally.
The land where the garden sits is owned by 1divineline2health, and donated by resident Steve Fletcher, who also works with the homeless population on the Westside.
“He asked me one question, ‘What would you do if someone would give you a lot on the Hilltop?’” Flores recalled. “I told him create a butterfly garden and a safe haven for the street sisters with children.”
Flores, who through her organization has gathered medical supplies from local hospitals and other organizations and distributed them to hospitals abroad and free clinics in Columbus, has split her time traveling abroad and serving locally through street outreach and recovery programs.
After the donation of the Oakley Avenue parcel, Flores began seeking contributions to make her dream a reality. She says the garden has been a community effort, with donations that include heavy equipment to till the area, benches, supplies, artistic pieces, and plants, trees and flowers.
“So as you see, love is a community and it has built our garden,” Flores said.
Those who stroll through the land will be immersed in a variety of hostas, perennials, annuals, blue indigos, catnip, sunflowers and several vegetables that include tomatoes, lettuce, sweet potatoes, onions and cucumbers.
“We have different types of milkweed to attract butterflies,” Flores said. “We have four kinds already, and I am waiting for the Monarchs to find our garden.”
There are also several plants that attract hummingbirds.
“We are trying to create a beautiful site for people to come and relax in the hub of human trafficking and opiate addiction,” she said.
It also serves as a place for children to gather, with the goal to build a gazebo and playground.
“I would love to have a gazebo built by kids and adults so we can have children reading at the garden,” Flores said. “It is through reading we develop wild imaginations and dreams come through.”
This summer, Flores has hosted a camping excursion at the garden for neighborhood children to empower them and teach them about eating healthy and safety. Youth also have participated in other activities, including rock painting, building birdhouses and planting seeds in the garden.
For more information on the Hilltop Butterfly Garden or to volunteer or donate, call (614) 313-0544 or go to 1dl2h.org.