Column: Home Grown

Column: Home Grown

Growing up, Lucinda, the daughter of sharecroppers, lived on a plantation in the small town of Edgefield, S.C. Her family raised most of their own food, never having to buy meat, milk, eggs, potatoes, sugar …, Lucinda even became an expert butter churner as a small child. Even clothes were sewn by hand from cloth bought at a nearby cotton plantation.

In her teenage years, Lucinda cooked meals for extra money, while her family members washed and ironed clothes, still not earning very much for their efforts. She recalls buying shoes with stamps, and then only wearing them to school and church. Gas was only $.19 a gallon, for those who could afford to own a vehicle.

In the 1940s, Lucinda married and soon after moved to northern Virginia so she and her husband could live with his uncle. Her husband held many jobs over the years … a truck driver, butcher, trash hauler, landscaper and farmer. Lucinda watched children, and cleaned homes during the day and government offices at night, all the while making home-cooked dinners daily for her husband and six children. Most of their food came from the farm her husband ran in Sterling, raising cows, chickens, and hogs and growing many vegetables. Lucinda canned peaches, beans, corn, squash, tomatoes, and jelly (a skill learned from her grandmother).

In 1968, Lucinda’s family moved into their Alexandria home, with a down payment of $1,000 for the $18,000 purchase. The house, built in 1925, was part of a housing community for railroad workers of the nearby railway. Workers would have lived in her home while supervisors resided in much larger, brick homes nearby.

Helping maintain 82-year old Lucinda’s “railroad working” home is volunteer-based Rebuilding Together Alexandria, providing home repair services free of charge that keep her warm, safe, and able to still can vegetables.

Rebuilding Together Alexandria is an award winning, non-profit organization dedicated to repairing and revitalizing homes at no charge for homeowners in need, including elderly, disabled, military veterans and families. To date, in-kind donations of labor and materials have resulted in $6 million worth of value on more than 1,547 properties. If you would like to apply, volunteer or donate, visit or call 703-836-1021.