Refresh Appalachia is among the newest partners of Americans Helping Americans®, and thanks to our supporters, and despite the challenges posed by the global coronavirus pandemic was able to carry out its mission of creating a garden in the community of Fairfield in Huntington, West Virginia.

Last August, Refresh Appalachia contacted us requesting grant funding for its Food Access Resources & Employment (FARE) program which would enable them to create a community garden and youth nutritional literacy program, in addition to providing employment for residents in the low-income urban community.

“Fairfield is a low-wealth neighborhood with a high minority population,” Adam Hudson, director of Refresh Appalachia, told us. “It is also a food desert characterized by an overlap between low vehicle access and is more than ½ mile (urban) from the nearest supermarket.”

With the grant funding, Adam proposed that Refresh Appalachia would be able to plan and implement an educational community garden on the grounds of a local community center and hire unemployed area residents to construct the garden which would ultimately provide convenient and affordable access to fresh produce for local residents.

Although work on the garden had to be paused in March and April, they were able to resume work in late May to construct three raised garden beds 2.5 feet wide and 10 feet in length just in time for the start of the community center’s inaugural garden season as part of Refresh Appalachia’s pilot program, explained Adam.

“In addition to early childhood gardening and education, we have been able to bolster workforce development as a result of Americans Helping Americans® funding,” Adam reported in June, adding that the work will continue through the summer, “as the hiring process has been delayed due to COVID-19.”

Adam outlined the major accomplishments of the program as being the completion of the community garden, increased interest in the garden and gardening within the community, the training and employing of formerly unemployed residents and developing partnerships such as with the Vest Virginia State University Extension Office and Marshall University.

“So far, the most effective part of the program has been the enthusiasm of the team…persevering through hardship while continuing to envision a bountiful growing season, full of joy and learning for kids (and staff!) in the neighborhood we are serving,” Adam told us.

And to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, Adam wants them to know:

“This community garden, made possible by the Americans Helping Americans® donors, has been a beacon of hope for neighborhood children and has provided some sense of normalcy for the staff involved during the COVID-19 outbreak – so we thank you for your support.

“The happiness of the children who were around to see and help with the build was enough to make the hard work worth it. This work is only the beginning of a series of community projects that are starting to take off in the Fairfield community, which we have been delighted to be able to participate alongside and work with as a result of Americans Helping Americans® funding.”

And this from, Sheryl, a beneficiary of the community garden program who added:

“I think that it’s a great way to teach and reach children and teens how to economically provide for themselves. It also creates relationships within the community. I would hope that the garden will give the children confidence in themselves that no matter their circumstances they have the ability to grow and learn how to be self-sufficient.

“I would like Americans Helping Americans® to know about their impact on a community; that they have given the children the opportunity to achieve and master a life-sustaining ability that they may have had no other opportunity to do.”