Volunteers build community garden at Man Middle School

By Cindy Bradford lbradford@civitasmedia.com

March 18, 2014

MAN - Amizade Global Service-Learning, Sustainable Williamson and Becker College collaborated last week to build raised beds for gardening at Man Elementary/Middle School. Wood supplies were purchased from the local Lowe’s store while potting and top soil was donated by McNeely’s of Man. These beds are built in hopes to encourage the community to work together in raising food that may be sold in a local Farmer’s Market, to teach the younger generation how to raise a garden, to get the elderly involved and to bring a community together with hands on experience rather than social networking. Students from Man will have the opportunity to connect with the elderly in the community by raising the garden together.

All of the students of Becker College who were volunteering are graduates of the BLUE Crew I and BLUE Crew II programs, which are leadership skills building programs that take place over two separate semesters. BLUE Crew graduates are well versed in all of Becker College’s Core Values: excellence, integrity, accountability, creative expression, community and diversity, and social responsibility.

Students and staff members of Becker College volunteered with Sustainable Williamson, which is a program that works to create a replicable sustainable community model for low-wealth communities throughout Central Appalachia. The goal of the program is to build replicable strategies in networks like community health, food systems, sustainable energy generation, and local sustainable tourism through service projects done through volunteers working with community stakeholders.

Amizade Global Service-Learning is a 20 year old not for profit organization that structures service-learning programs in 19 communities across 12 countries. Amizade empowers individuals and communities through worldwide service and learning to create an equitable world where all people can connect freely and forge lasting friendships. They partner with local organizations to make sure their volunteers are doing service that the community feels is most important.

Through their partnership with Sustainable Williamson, they have built raised bed gardens, expanded the local community garden and injected more than $20,000 into the community. That money has been spent through employing or paying Williamson citizens, buying local raw materials and ,depending on what is needed and in season, buy local food and groceries.

Thus far, through Amizade’s partnership with Sustainable Williamson, they have brought just under 200 volunteers, an estimated total of $35,000 to the community, paid between 15-25 area residents and constructed about 40-50 raised bed gardens; all through thousands of volunteer hours. These goals are the same they are aiming to reach for the Man area as well.

Sustainable Williamson works to encourage healthy living by diversifying its energy portfolio, providing new economic opportunities for businesses, creating a strong workforce with competitive skills sets, growing local food systems to encourage healthy living, and increasing the quality of life for our community.

Their goal is to create a replicable model of market-based sustainability for the economically distressed communities throughout Central Appalachia. We believe it is time to redefine the economic landscape of coal country, and together, our vision is to spark a Collaboration Across the Nation for sustainable development to create a better world.

Volunteers spend most days working on a variety of local service projects. Some examples are community garden construction, stripping and painting at the local field house, construction in local low-income apartment complexes and assisting local farmers in preparing for planting season. Through Sustainable Williamson’s example, they are now excited to be connecting with Sustainable Pike County and the developing Sustainable Logan. Both of those partnerships have started out with raised beds, which were completely built and paid for by volunteers. As programs develop surrounding those raised beds, they look forward to expanding projects as each community identifies the best use of their volunteers and funds.

Amizade’s local Site Director, Nathaniel Siggers stays connected to Sustainable Williamson and other local partners to construct programs that allow the volunteers to serve the community through a local voice and have local speakers teach groups about local agriculture and public health initiatives, local history and the coal industry.

You can learn more about Amizade and their history by visiting Amizade.org. To learn more about Sustainable Williamson you may visit SustainableWilliamson.org.