Gladstone garden takes on special meaning during Suicide Awareness Month

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GLADSTONE, Mo. — There’s a community vegetable garden behind Antioch Middle School with a somewhat unusual name: Squib’s Harbor.

Cindy Woods, a longtime teacher at the school, explains the name honors her son, Marcus.

“When he was born I looked at him, and I said he looks like a squib,” Woods said. “I have no idea where I got that name – he just looked like a little squibby.”

Little did Cindy Woods know then, her son would later become a real squib, an enlisted sailor on the U.S.S. Missouri submarine.

“I was proud of him,” Tommy Woods, his father, said.

While snapshots in his Navy uniform portray Marcus Woods as the very picture of a happy sailor, in private he was battling demons no one knew about.

“It is like an enemy, because you’re fighting this battle within so it’s like you’re under enemy fire from inside but nobody sees it, except the person that’s going through it,” Cindy Woods said.

In February of 2017, Marcus Woods took his own life. His parents were shattered.

“If you’re hurt, you go to the doctor and get fixed,” Tommy Woods said. “If you need to talk to somebody because you think you want to end your life, you really need to go talk to somebody.”

That need to connect with others is a big reason why Cindy Woods’ fellow teacher at Antioch Middle School, Steve Stirlen, was motivated to create Squib’s Harbor.

“Words, as we know, don’t really mean a lot,” Stirlen said. “Actions mean much more, so that’s what I did: I went into action.”

Stirlen hopes the community garden can offer a sanctuary, of sorts, for anyone who has been impacted by suicide.

“I hope it has given Cindy the belief that there are people out there that really, really care,” Stirlen said.

Stirlen frequently donates tomatoes and egg plants from the garden to anyone who is in need.

“If someone needs it and I have it, it’s yours,” Stirlen said.

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