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Special AmeriCorps team to build, grow gardens at Human Development Centers in ArkansasDate: 03/10/2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Deputy Chief of Communications
Special AmeriCorps team to build, grow gardens
at Human Development Centers in Arkansas
Members of AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps will be working in April, May and June to design, build, plant and harvest community gardens on the grounds of the state’s five Human Development Centers, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Friday.
The residential centers are part of DHS’s Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) and provide therapy, education and workforce opportunities for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental delays to become more independent and enjoy a higher quality of life.
“This project will provide our residents a chance to learn and grow gardens while connecting Corps members with local communities and state social services,” said DDS Director Melissa Stone. “These gardens also will be a practical way to provide workforce training and socialization for residents.”
Stone said the gardens also will increase community access to fresh foods.
The fresh produce will be used at the centers for meals, and residents will sell the surplus at local farmers markets. The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and its network of food pantries across the state have begun encouraging and supporting the construction of community gardens to address hunger and food insecurity in the state.
The handicap accessible design of the center community gardens also will allow others within the community to garden. The centers are partnering with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, GardenCorps and Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention. The National Civilian Community Corps is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18-24 that aims to strengthen communities and develops leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. Drawn from the successful models of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the U.S. military, AmeriCorps NCCC is built on the belief that civic responsibility is an inherent duty of all citizens and that national service programs work effectively with local communities to address pressing needs.
“Because Corps members will work hand-in-hand with selected residents in cultivating the gardens, they will be able to build relationships and understanding of those with disabilities,” Stone said. “Working with a population that can often be seen as different will offer new insight into the abilities, vibrancy, and needs of this community.”
For more information about Arkansas AmeriCorps, contact the DHS Office of Communications and Community Engagement at 501-320-6451 or visit Facebook.com/AmeriCorpsArkansas.
GardenCorps teams have previously worked programs similar to that being developed at the Human Development Centers. In the above photos, volunteers cultivate gardens at local elementary schools.