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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Extending outreach via a ‘church without walls’

Uplift Westwood Community Development Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Authority recently joined Mt. Vernon Baptist-Westwood leaders after a Sunday service to dedicate land for a long-held dream for Southwest Memphis – Westwood Community Garden.

“It has been a vision of our pastor for Westwood,” said Pat Davis, director of outreach for the church.

“Rev. Melvin Watkins became our pastor after Dr. James Netters, who was here 62 years. Rev. Watkins felt that a community garden would continue Mt. Vernon’s effort to extend its outreach – church without walls. We will remember Aug.14 as a life-changing day in our community.”

Mt. Vernon donated the land for the garden, the exact size and acreage unknown presently, Davis said. But a garden construction company will come in, build a fence around the future garden, and prepare the ground for planting in early 2023.

What happened next set off fireworks. TVA presented Uplift Westwood with a check for $5,000 as start-up money. 

“Everyone was just so excited that we were actually going to have a community garden,” Davis said. 

“Residents in our community will be able to come and work in the garden as well as pick fresh vegetables to feed their families. Our community will be healthier, working in the soil with our hands and eating fresh veggies from the garden.”

Watkins expressed gratitude for TVA’s gift but reminded everyone that a community garden is going to take the entire community to work and give to the project.

The garden is an initiative led by Uplift Westwood CDC in partnership with Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, said Watkins. 

“We are extremely thankful for the generous donation from TVA. It will catapult us closer to getting the garden complete. But we still have lots of work to do. Our time and donations are needed.”

(Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Davis said talking about the community garden has excited residents, especially seniors who live in Westwood.

“We asked some of our seniors what they want to see planted in the garden,” said Davis. “The first thing they said was, ‘I want some greens.’ So, we know we’ll be planting lots and lots of greens. Other vegetables mentioned were squash, tomatoes, and okra. This is a project the whole community is supporting.”

The garden will be at the corner of Ford Road and Parkrose Avenue, Davis said.

TVA Vice President Mark Yates said it was important to support a community garden.

“We realize that this garden symbolizes future growth and prosperity in the Westwood community,” said Yates. 

“Fresh produce from the garden will provide an immediate solution to curb food insecurity. Working in the garden will promote community pride and teach young people new skills they can take into adulthood. TVA is happy to partner with Uplift Westwood CDC on the Westwood Community Garden project.”

Watkins, who also serves on the Uplift Westwood board, said the garden will have multiple benefits for Westwood residents.

“Besides promoting sustainable agriculture, the community garden will offer economic advantages to residents,” said Watkins. “The health benefits and educational opportunities created are reasons enough for all of us to be generous supporters of the project.”

Davis said the first planting will likely be spring of 2023.

Donations for Westwood Community Garden can be made at www.upliftwestwoodcdc.org.

Donations of time and expertise are also welcome.


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