Above: Ephraim Smiley, Eric Holcomb and Melissa Long; Smiley Jr. in garden with his great-niece and nephew [PHOTOS: COURTESY]
Written by Tanisha L. Washington
Local hunger relief farmer and community activist, Ephraim Smiley Jr., was recognized earlier this month for more than 40 years of service to Fort Wayne and its citizens. Smiley received the Sagamore of the Wabash award, one of the state’s top honors in recognition of his organic gardening efforts and teachings which have benefited thousands of area families, children, churches, shelters, and food banks.
In addition to his gardening, Smiley is widely known for his community involvement as a founding member of the Fort Wayne Fishing Derby at Reservoir Park as well as his work at the former Pontiac Youth Center and with Fort Wayne Community Schools and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Indiana Governor, Eric Holcomb, delivered Smiley’s award personally in a special ceremony at Fellowship Missionary Church on Tillman Road which has provided land for Smiley to garden on free of charge and assistance in caring for crops for many years.
Mr. Smiley hails from humble agrarian roots in Coy, Alabama, where he was born before his parents sought greater opportunities and wealth for the family in the north when Ephraim Jr. was still a preschooler.