by Madeleine Eldridge and Zandra Alford
As the 2014 mini-grant funding cycle comes to an end, we would like to take this time to thank our partnering organizations for increasing access to healthy and affordable foods and safe places to be active in Lee and Harnett Counties. Over the past few months, we have conducted end of year site visits and posted brief summaries of the work being done by each grant site. Today’s spotlight is on the Fit for the Purpose Zumba Classes at First Baptist Church in Sanford, the Shawtown Community Garden, and the Wonder Years at Anderson Creek Club Childcare Garden.
Fit for the Purpose Zumba Classes – First Baptist Church in Sanford
Monica Monroe leads a high-energy Zumba class at First Baptist Church of Sanford (202 Summitt Dr, Sanford, NC 27330) for $1 a session. This class, known as “Fit for the Purpose”, is offered three times a week (on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5-6pm). Monica used a mini-grant from Voices Into Action to purchase a sound system and marketing materials for her class. Monica told us that attendance just keeps growing, and that she sees around 500 people a month in her classes. On the night we attended, there were more than 50 people dancing and having fun.
The community really benefits from what Monica and First Baptist Church are doing. Many of the participants use the Zumba class as part of a health management strategy, and have seen improvements over time. Monica encourages the use of modifications to the exercise moves in her classes, allowing students of all fitness levels, abilities, and ages to participate. Monica also challenges her members to make lifestyle changes for the better, such as avoiding sugary foods and soda.
Monica’s Zumba class has a great atmosphere, the workout is intense, the music is upbeat and entertaining, and the members love it! If you’re in Sanford, visit on a Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday night to participate in Monica’s Zumba class, or check out Fit For the Purpose online here.
Shawtown Community Garden
Frances Harrington and Patricia McKoy used a Voices into Action mini-grant to fund a community garden located at Lillington First Missionary Baptist Church. They were able to use the funds mainly to cover the cost of the extensive watering system needed for such a large garden. Recent additions to the garden include two 50-gallon rain-barrels. They have also learned a lot along the way about garden maintenance and the soil nutrition needs of their plants.
The garden is expansive, with long rows that have been planted with corn, tomatoes, okra, zucchini, squash, various beans, peas, green peppers, and watermelon. The area has also been used for smaller demonstration gardens planted with collards, cabbage, and turnip greens. Frances and Patricia have been very creative in getting the community out into the garden. There was “Squash Day” where church members were able to go out and harvest as much squash as they could use, and give away the rest to the community. There was also a “Soil Fest” where Patricia and a group of 4-H youth had a lot of fun scattering lime over the field in boots and bandannas. Through the garden, they were also able to provide their local senior centers with fresh vegetables, particularly zucchini and squash.
When we visited Francis and Patricia, they started talking about all the people in the community who had been involved or touched in some way by the garden. The list was a long one! Members of several local churches, the 4-H chapter, local farmers, and the senior centers have all participated in or benefited from the garden! Future plans include a smaller-scale fall garden, and possibly purchasing further maintenance equipment and maybe even a storage shed. They are both very happy to have provided free fresh vegetables to community members, and hope the garden can continue to be used this way. What the community wants and needs from the garden is very important, and volunteers are needed, so if you are in the area and interested, think about getting involved! Contact Patricia McKoy at email@example.com for more information.
Wonder Years at Anderson Creek Club Childcare and Learning Center – Childcare Garden
Wonder Years at Anderson Creek Club Childcare and Learning Cente r in Spring Lake has created a garden on their playground to benefit their students with the assistance of their Voices Into Action mini-grant. Special care was taken in designing the garden to appeal to and be safe for small children. The garden has raised beds planted with herbs and vegetables, grapes along the back fence, and miniature sunflowers set in tire beds. The garden also features a child-sized vine house with pansies planted in the side beds. Some of the vegetables they have grown include carrots, beets, broccoli, and cucumber. When we visited Betty and Donna at Wonder Years, we were told that the garden has influenced Wonder Year families to start growing their own plants at home.
The garden is used to teach the children about plants and how they grow, and to provide a calming place to play that promotes mental health. The children have planted, harvested, washed and taken home herbs such as mint, thyme, basil, and parsley. This garden has been a positive healthy influence for Wonder Years families. Some children have requested their parents buy more vegetables for their meals after tasting the things that they have grown.
The Wonder Years garden continues to expand and benefit the Spring Lake community. Still waiting to be installed are a rain barrel, compost tumbler, windchimes, and a water trough. Also in the works are a sitting area for the children, and surfacing for walking paths. They also hope to eventually plant fruit trees. The garden has been a big part of improved nutritional education and increasing the children’s interest in spending time outdoors.