CONNECTING THE KEYS

Connecting the Keys through the sharing of food

Sept. 11, 2001 is one of those defining dates that will transcend generations. Everyone remembers where they were when the reports of the horrific plane crashes into the World Trade Center erupted on the radio, television and Internet.

With the political partisan bickering blocking any kind of progressive movements in Washington, it’s hard to remember a time in the past 10 years when the citizens of our country put aside their differences and came together in a spirit of unity and commitment.

Community volunteers in Key West helped stock a food truck in partnership with the Salvation Army.
Community volunteers in Key West helped stock a food truck in partnership with the Salvation Army.

In tribute to all those who were lost and the tens of thousands who rose in service, 9/11 has been designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance, and here in the Florida Keys, a grassroots group dubbed the Growing Hope Initiative is organizing and funding several community service projects over the course of an entire week.

Now, more than ever before, Floridians of all ages are ready to answer a call and lend a hand in their local communities.

Patrick Garvey, Creator and Director of the Growing Hope Initiative, applied for the BEST grant as a volunteer. In addition to his volunteer work, Garvey works for DCF and has worked within the Food Stamp outreach program area. He envisioned building stronger and more self-sufficient families through the building of community and backyard edible gardens for and by low-income families and other marginalized groups who receive public assistance.

Be The Change is a group of county-wide high school students committed to service across the Keys. In Marathon, teenagers volunteered their weekend to build a garden plot at Heron House, a supported living facility for mentally challenged residents.
Be The Change is a group of county-wide high school students committed to service across the Keys. In Marathon, teenagers volunteered their weekend to build a garden plot at Heron House, a supported living facility for mentally challenged residents.

“The outcome of the grant is unfolding to be a week of service with a food theme, coined ‘Connecting the Keys through the Sharing of Food’,” Garvey elaborated. “September 17 is a nationwide ‘eat-in’, demonstrating that everyone deserves to eat easy, delicious slow food meals every day – especially when it costs $5 or less. This is a grassroots movement from Slow Food USA.”

Funded through a BEST Neighborhoods grant from Volunteer Florida – an organization that believes “strengthening Florida’s communities through volunteerism and service” is not just a mission statement, but a way of life – various organizations and residents are coming together beginning on Sunday, Sept. 11 through Saturday, Sept. 17 to perform service projects for the Keys’ communities.

Charlie Wilson of Help Yourself in Key West led the preparation of a fantastic community potluck feast at Glad Tidings Church.
Charlie Wilson of Help Yourself in Key West led the preparation of a fantastic community potluck feast at Glad Tidings Church.

Some of the local organizations that will be hosting service projects will include Glad Tidings Community Church, GLEE Key West Community Gardens, the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club, Independence Cay, St. Columba Episcopal Church, KAIR, Be the Change as well as a host of residents facilitating projects like building container gardens for home-bound veterans; planting fruit trees in conjunction with local veterans’ tributes; increasing wheelchair accessibility in public places; expanding existing community gardens; and offering nutritional classes.

The BEST Neighborhoods Week of Service will culminate in a community potluck dinner of Saturday, Sept. 17 and will include free cooking demonstrations, prizes, an opportunity to share the success of each project and free day care!

The BEST (Build-Engage-Sustain-Transform) neighborhoods grant is based on “neighboring” – a model concept of community engagement that uses volunteering as a tool to empower, mobilize and facilitate positive changes within communities.

Monroe County youth gathered at St. Columba Episcopal in Marathon to build small container gardens for disabled or home-bound veterans across the Florida Keys.
Monroe County youth gathered at St. Columba Episcopal in Marathon to build small container gardens for disabled or home-bound veterans across the Florida Keys.

Glad Tidings Community Church in Key West is exercising the neighboring concept by putting their money where their mouths are; they are serving as the fiscal agent of the BEST grant and are interested in funding other service projects – food-related or not – across Key West and in Marathon. They are building neighborhood bridges between our tiny islands.

 

This article originally appeared in The Weekly Newspapers, Aug. 19, 2011 edition.

Growing Hope Initiative