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By: Nicole Shih, Telegram, September 30, 2021

WEST BOYLSTON — Two apple trees at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction are dedicated to Teresa Romeo’s relatives.

Gregorio Travaglio is Romeo’s father, 65, who died in 2015 from kidney cancer, and Antonietta Travaglio, 60, is Romeo’s aunt who died in 2017 also because of kidney disease.

Romeo and her family members were at the apple orchard at the facility Wednesday morning to memorialize family members.

“We come from a big Italian family whose always been very giving to anybody, so this is part of our heritage, part of who we are. Giving back is the best way we can (to) memorialize them,” Romeo said.

The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office welcomed visitors to the Memorial Apple Orchard Wednesday morning, greeting family and friends who donated apple trees in the name of a loved one. Each tree costs $500.

Twenty “Giving Trees” have been planted at the orchard with plans for future expansion.

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Rev. Janice Ford of the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction and several donors, as well as their family members, spoke at the memorial.

As fall crops from apple trees continue, Evangelidis’ mission is to serve the community into another season.

“It’s a double dedication,” Evangelidis said. “It’s a dedication of the trees and the orchard, but it’s a dedication of this orchard giving back to the community and continuing our organic program with new crops.”

The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has been growing its organic farm — which sits on 300 acres — for more than 10 years. The farm produces up to 40,000 pounds of food annually and has donated more than 200,000 pounds of organic produce to local senior centers, homeless shelters and food pantries.

The apple orchard was first envisioned in 2019, with the first tree planted in October 2020.

Ralph Capaldi, board member of the Worcester County Reserve Deputy Sheriff’s Association, was the first person to step forward to donate a tree in dedication to his daughter Isabella Rose, 15 months, who died of cancer.

The memorial farm, which grows organic vegetables ranging from squash, zucchini, green beans and tomatoes to pumpkins for fall distribution to those in need, is dedicated to Lt. David Kalagher of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, longtime farm manager who died two years ago of cancer.

Even just farm-grown food, Evangelidis said, is a “medicine” for a lot of people who don’t get fresh and organic food at shelters.

“We’re very proud to say that we not only have an organic farm at the jail, but we distribute those boxes of essential medicine back to the community to help people and keep them healthy,” he said.

And of course, the jail also feeds inmates farm-grown food. Several inmates also work on the farm.

Inmates shared their experiences working at the farm and apple orchard Wednesday morning, saying that it feels good to get out of the building.

“I feel good to myself, and I’m sure all the inmates also feel good doing this,” said Rene Guzman, an inmate at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction who started working on the farm three weeks ago. “I like the idea of what they are doing and actually taking care of trees. It’s good to come out from where we’re at.”