Fiskars Project Orange Thumb Grant Recipient: Washington Shores Community Garden

August 29, 2015 by

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Since we posted earlier about the Fiskars Project Orange Thumb community gardens grant program, thirty grant recipients in the U.S. and Canada have begun using their awards to bring their garden plans to fruition.

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One of those grant recipients was Orlando, Florida’s MAN UP Mentoring, Inc., who will use its grant money to cultivate the Washington Shores Community Garden as part of their Garden Revitalization and Beautification Project.

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Altough MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. primarily serves vulnerable male youth, many of their projects and initiatives like the community garden also include female youth.

Their stated mission is to “serve urban neighborhoods as a multi-cultural, social service agency for neighborhood improvement and for the complete understanding of emergency preparedness” which it accomplishes through after school and summer programs, employment readiness training, mentoring, sports, recreational and advocacy programs.

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Spokesperson, Samantha Wallace, shared with us how her organization plans to use its Fiskars Project Orange Thumb grant funds.

“We are learning a great deal about gardening,” said Wallace. “Currently it’s quite hot here and challenging to keep the plants from withering. But we are super excited about our upcoming Garden Revitalization and Beautification Project with Home Depot Millenia and the Eckerd Project Bridge Program slated for the end of next month.”

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Q. What will be the desired benefits of the garden for the at-risk youth your organization serves? 

A. The garden will help us teach life principles and the importance of contributing and giving, with an opportunity for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections. Raising up a generation of service leaders by exposing our youth to career opportunities in agriculture opens the door to scholarships from one of Florida’s several land grant universities (Florida A & M University, University of Florida, etc.). The possibilities are endless–we’ll use the garden to teach the importance of eating fresh produce early on in life, and using the garden as a point of reference, we can teach science and mathematics. 

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Q. The garden will provide educational opportunities—does this mean vocational experience specifically?

A. Recently we forged a relationship with Project Bridge, a program with Eckerd that provides transitional services to boys and girls ages 11-21 reintegrating back into their home communities from residential commitment programs in Central and South Florida. Through an innovative partnership, this program supports the mission and vision of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to increase post-placement stability of youth through transition coordination from residential placement.

Youth in the program will work closely with team members from our partner Home Depot Millenia to complete various projects. They will not only complete their community service hours but will also receive hands-on training aligned with their particular vocational program.

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Q. You mentioned that you plan to incorporate the youths’ art into the garden space. Do you have an art program in place through which participants will create these works?

A. Last year we couldn’t quite facilitate the art initiative with our partner elementary school, but since a new school year is coming up there is an opportunity to cultivate the relationship and potentially incorporate the garden into the art curriculum. 

Q. Can you describe the kind of irrigation system you have planned for the garden? Anything else you will use the grant funds for?

A.  We plan on installing the Netafim Drip Irrigation System and we would also like to use the funds to purchase a tool shed. We have so many tools now, we need a place to store them all.

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Q. Can you describe the types of quarterly garden activities you have planned?

A. We have planned harvest parties, neighborhood gatherings (an opportunity to establish fellowship with your neighbors with “Coffee and Conversation in the Garden”), educational and youth-centric activities which will eventually incorporate visual and performing arts, planting days, National Night Out, and more.  

Q. What sort of outreach do you have in place, and what types of volunteer opportunities will be available to the broader community?

A. Washington Shores is the ideal area because there is available private and institutional land. The area has a diverse composition of residents, ranging from retirees to single-parent households. The garden is in proximity to Washington Shores Elementary, as well as several churches in the neighborhood which offer an abundance of educational and volunteering opportunities. According to Orange County Public Schools, 92% of students attending Washington Shores Elementary would be considered impoverished. One of our goals is to donate at 100% of our harvest each season to the school, surrounding churches, underserved residents, and our youth.  

Q. How does the garden fit in to the organization’s broader vision?

A. MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. realizes the importance of working with vulnerable males and youth because once they are equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help transform their families and communities. Washington Shores Community Garden is a beacon of hope and is helping to unify and transform the neighborhood. At this time, no one has stolen, vandalized or raised any negative issues pertaining to the space. The residents are excited and eager about this transformation process. 

Wallace concluded, borrowing Frederick Douglass’s words: “It is easier to empower strong children than to repair broken men.” 

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Fiskars, for whom I served on the Fiskars Project Orange Thumb editorial board to select grant recipients. Read our Sponsorhip Disclosure Policy.

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