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HDC gardens can be a valuable link between centers and surrounding communitiesDate: 07/19/2017
HDC gardens can be a valuable link between centers and surrounding communities
By Kev Moye
Each of Arkansas’ five human development centers now features a garden. Those gardens were established or enhanced due to the help of volunteers from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). The NCCC team and the gardening project were recently celebrated at the Arkadelphia Human Development Center (AHDC). AmeriCorps NCCC is a full-time, team-based residential service program for individuals who desire to partake in community service projects. Meanwhile, the HDCs specialize in working with individuals who have developmental disabilities. The centers provide opportunities for residents to experience normalcy and a form of independent living.
“This program fits in perfectly with what we’re trying to do long term at each of our centers,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) Director, Melissa Stone. “We want to continually expand the employment opportunities for clients. Our clients deserve and want the opportunity to work.”
Among the highlights of the celebration was a ribbon cutting, performed by an AHDC resident who has his own portable, raised garden. Additionally, the NCCC team was publicly commended for completing the endeavor. “This is a great opportunity to enlist the aid of our community. We’ve linked up with Master Gardeners and the Cooperative Extension Service of Bradley County,” said Mark Wargo, interim superintendent of the Southeast Arkansas facility. “We also have organizations in Warren working with us to bring volunteers to campus for an educational program about growing healthy food. The gardening project will also serve as a way to provide vocational opportunities for our clients.”
Jonesboro Human Development Center Superintendent, Steve Farmer, is confident the gardens will create a bonding experience between residents and members of the community. “This offers a true opportunity for the communities to understand what we do,” he said. “It will also show how important it is for our clients and residents to be included in the normalcies of life. This garden project presents a way for clients to learn how to have a successful transition into community life.” “The program will provide our residents with a chance to learn about and grow gardens with local community volunteers,” said Johnathan Jones, AHDC interim superintendent.
“These gardens will provide workforce training and socialization for residents. These types of public and private partnerships are often a success because it brings government, local businesses, and civic organizations together for a common goal.” Jeff Gonyea, Booneville HDC superintendent, likes how the program has given residents something to be excited about. “This project benefits our clients by helping them become active outside of the center. It will help them develop social skills and agricultural skills,” he said. “Through the gardening program we can pay them minimum wage. Our clients will also take the products to the farmer’s market and sell to the community.” The work of NCCC has greatly impacted the Conway HDC as well. “This project with AmeriCorps NCCC has already made a difference for our center. The garden has brought community members to our campus to participate in a program that changes lives,” said Sarah Murphy, CHDC superintendent. “These gardens will increase the employment opportunities for our residents due to selling the produce. This program has further enhanced the center and our relationship with the community.”
Stone is elated about the possibilities associated with the garden program; most notably strengthening the rapport between center residents and members of the community. “This garden is another wonderful employment opportunity provided by our centers,” she said. “We’re definitely going to continue to expand upon the opportunities at the human development centers and with our community programs.” To acquire additional information about the HDCs, go to http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/ddds/Pages/default.aspx. For details pertaining to AmeriCorps and NCCC log on to VolunteerAR.org.