Rebuilding the Community

To our Friends and Supporters:

Many of you have asked about how we are doing in light of the June 1 tornado and what you can do to help. Here is our response:

For many, the tornados that hit Springfield and surrounding communities on June 1 changed everything. This is true for Gardening the Community, many of our youth, and the Six Corners neighborhood we call home.
The afternoon of June 1 was a work day for us – while school is in session our youth gather on Wednesdays from 4:30 – 6:30 to weed, water, and plant. Folks were outside weeding on our Hancock St. lot in the rain when the sky darkened and the wind began to blow. The rain had kept many youth home – so we had a small group. As it became clear that something more than a typical storm was roaring into the neighborhood, the father of one of our youth ran out of his house across the street and called for everyone to get into his basement. Others who had stayed home took cover in basements, closets and bathrooms. People emerged to a transformed environment: trees down, roofs and walls ripped away, shingles, insulation and pieces of metal scattered everywhere ….. I am sure you all have seen the images or damage yourself.

View on Hancock Street after storm 

Thankfully for GtC, only one of our lots was hit directly. The tornado passed just south of our Hancock and Lebanon St. lots and somehow the grandmother tree on Hancock withstood the winds. We have repairs and clean up to do yet at 488 Central St. (trees came down in the back and our fences are damaged) – but on the whole we are able to continue our work. The vegetable plants we lost to the heavy rains that hit Brookfield Farm in Amherst have already been replaced by the generous donations of many. We have been blessed.

Our youth and neighbors, however, were not so fortunate. Many lost everything. Many families are having to start over. The neighborhood is reeling and parts are unrecognizable.

When we walk from our garden on Hancock St. to the one on Central Street, we cross the path of the tornado — the destruction is all around. This neighborhood was home to several of our youth. Brookings School (K-8), the school for most of our younger members, will take 2 years to rebuild; the neighborhood park and streets lost most of their trees. Apartment buildings are piles of rubble; much affordable housing is simply gone. Homes are battered. We have to steel ourselves for the emotional impact each time we walk, bike or drive through. People are cleaning up and doing the best they can, but it’s hard and there are no quick fixes.

House of one of our youth

The youth most impacted by the storm are with their families, doubling up with relatives, at the shelter or just moving into new housing. Some have moved out of the neighborhood; others have moved out of state. Our core youth crew is much diminished. We are waiting to see who will be able to return.

Our Response:

We have asked ourselves what we can do to be part of the recovery and rebuilding. First, we will be there for our youth as they begin to make their way back to GtC. We are working to increase the number of stipended positions we offer this summer, so that, as youth return to the neighborhood or figure out how to get to us from their new homes, we can welcome them in. We will also provide bikes as needed. Secondly, we are raising money to offer a weekly box of fresh, organic vegetables through our new GtC EATS Shares program to our families and neighbors most impacted by the tornado (see information below for more details on how you can buy a share). Third, we will push as much as we can for community involvement in decisions about the rebuilding, so that residents shape what the neighborhood looks like and so that resources are distributed equitably. We have already seen disturbing inequities play out in terms of emergency response and access to information and resources.

How You Can Help

All of this takes money and time, so we turn to you, our community of supporters, for financial support. We know our youth development program and the food we grow are more important than ever before. Our gardens provide an oasis of new growth and beauty in the midst of much destruction; the positive efforts and leadership of our youth help neighbors feel hopeful about the future. And our food, and the process of growing it, nurtures spirits as well as bodies. So many neighbors walking by our Central St. lot thank us for not leaving – for being there and working hard to clean it up and make it beautiful again given all that has happened. We intend to stay. With your help, we will not only stay, we will grow in the ways needed by our community.

Your contribution, large or small, will be greatly appreciated!

Volunteers on our Hancock site

For tax deductible contributions in support of GtC, make your check to our fiscal sponsor, the Gasoline Alley Foundation and write Gardening the Community in the memo line. If you would like your contribution restricted to tornado relief, please indicate so. General contributions are also much needed and appreciated. Mail to: Gardening the Community, PO Box 90774, Springfield, MA 01139.

You can also use your credit or debit card to give through the donate button here on our website – its through Paypal and very secure. To give your time, show up any Saturday from 9:30 – 12:30 at 49 Lebanon St. or 256 Hancock ready to dig in. We also love hosting groups and can make special arrangements around your schedule. Just email to connect.

Thank you to all who have offered support, prayers and assistance – showing up to work with us, getting plants, locating resources, passing on information. It has meant so much!

We are stronger because of you.

GtC Shares Program
This entry was posted in Community Gardens, Springfield Tornado, Urban Agriculture. Bookmark the permalink.

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