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East County Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019 6 months ago

Hope grows in Myakka neighbors' backyard

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Myakka City man, killed in an accident, is honored with a community garden.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Tena McCallister sat in a patio chair listening to the wind rustle through the grass and the oak branches.

She was looking toward an open field adjacent to the home of Myakka City’s Dolly and Gary Johnson that will become a community garden honoring her son, Dustin Horne.

Horne, who grew up in Myakka City, died at 30 years old Oct. 29, in a car crash at State Road 64 and Verna Bethany Road. The 2007 Lakewood Ranch High School graduate had helped an elderly man check on his cows that day when he left in his

vehicle and was hit by a driver who was charged with DUI manslaughter.

Dolly and Gary Johnson, who live on the property of an old horse farm at 26795 Gill Road, didn’t know Horne but learned more about the kind of man he was last December. Horne’s grandmother, Christine Whaley, had come to the Johnsons’ property to help with an “Operation Santa” project, which in December provided Christmas meals and presents to 32 families in need through the Helping Hands Giving Hearts organization.

Whaley, along with other community volunteers, told the Johnsons about Horne, his love of the outdoors and his love of people.

“The more Christine was telling me about Dustin, I thought, ‘It has to be Dustin’s Garden,’” Dolly Johnson said. “He was the type of person who wanted to give back to people. That’s what the garden is all about.”

The Johnsons decided they wanted to honor Horne and envisioned a community garden in a flat area that used to be a riding arena. The community garden could provide food to those in need through Helping Hands Giving Hearts.

A welder by trade, Dustin Horne was a 2007 graduate of Lakewood Ranch High School who loved to fish and hunt and be with people. Courtesy photo.

McCallister said her son would have loved this particular spot.

“Even if there was nothing in this field, he’d be in heaven,” she said of her son.

Dustin’s Garden will be an important piece of Helping Hands Giving Hearts, and it should become productive considering Myakka City’s Maureen Hudson, an engineering and technology teacher at Braden River High School, will supply some volunteer labor with her team of 45 members of the Technology Student Association.

Those students already have been busy, shopping and wrapping presents for the Helping Hands Giving Hearts’ Operation Santa project.

“It was so valuable for my kids to be part of that,” Hudson said. “We were looking for something to do that wasn’t just raising money and giving money.”

The Johnsons said they hope to break ground on the garden within a month. 

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