New Program Brings Harvests Home
Thanks to Wells Fargo‘s support of an ambitious MEND program, neighborhoods around the northeastern San Fernando Valley will be getting greener and healthier. With help from a generous grant, MEND’s new Home Gardening Training Program will build food producing gardens at the homes of local low-income families, organize training classes, and build a supportive community of fellow participants and volunteers.
Through its NeighborhoodLIFT program—in collaboration with the Wells Fargo Foundation and NeighborhoodWorks America —Wells Fargo has provided $300,000 in funds to enable this new program, along with related MEND initiatives. The funds will underwrite the supplies, materials, and staffing essential to the program.
For several years, MEND has run a small but popular after-school program called Seeds to Supper, in which school children learn to grow, harvest, and prepare vegetables from MEND’s small parking-lot garden. The new Home Gardening Training Program will go much farther, teaching 72 families over the course of 2013 how to grow their own food on a sustainable basis.
As MEND’s assistant food bank director Luke Ippoliti puts it, the new program “will allow families to have access to the fresh, healthy food that they want but that is economically out of reach. Parents will be able to take pride in the fact that they’re feeding their kids well, and the kids will learn where good food comes from and be less at risk for diet-related illnesses.”
The program will include introductory gardening classes, along with workshops on cooking, nutrition, canning, and seed saving. Social events like potlucks and harvest celebrations will bring the participating families together, growing a sense of community and strengthening the program.
Like all MEND undertakings, the Home Garden Program will be driven by volunteers, who will work alongside families to build and install the gardens. Volunteer mentors will follow up with garden visits to share more of their knowledge and answer questions.
The goal is not only to alleviate hunger and promote sustainable self-sufficiency, but also to beautify local neighborhoods in a practical way. In addition, through an agreement with TreePeople, hundreds of fruit trees will be planted throughout the local neigborhoods.
Managing the project will be MEND’s newest employee, Home Garden Program Coordinator Laura Robledo. A CSUN graduate in political science, Laura brings extensive experience in working with local gardeners as the former garden coordinator for the Youth Speak Collective’s Project Youth Green, Pacoima’s very own community garden. Laura grew up in and still resides in the area, and has a strong passion for helping her community.
Through its new home harvest program, MEND’s staff and volunteers have found yet another way of realizing the key vision of its founders: to help people break out of poverty through self-reliance.
Photo: Diana, Cinthia, and Belinda with their mother Maria Torres stand in their yard where a vegetable garden will soon take root.
Welcome to the MEND Poverty website! Clearly you have found us on the internet and we are thrilled to have you here. This year our website design changed and there are new bells and whistles. We want you to get as much as you can from our website!
If you would like to learn about our services and how to apply, go here:
Find out what is happening with us! MEND is always doing something in the community – and our clients and volunteers have interesting stories to share. Find them here: http://mendpoverty.org/news-media/newsletters/.
Rub elbows with our leader, Marianne! She has her own blog here: http://mendpoverty.org/category/ceo-leadership-blog/
When you talk about MEND , you are speaking about the effects of poverty in a community, and also the effects that food, clothing, education, dental and medical care can make on an impoverished community http://mendpoverty.org/about-us/did-you-know/ has all the numbers you will need.
Volunteers! We are made up of mostly volunteers and even have won awards for how effective our volunteers are. Here http://mendpoverty.org/get-involved/volunteer-now/ is a list of positions available and how to sign up.
Fame! Okay, we don’t want to be famous, but we do want people to know about the work we do, and to join us when they can. Here is a list of our media exposure: http://mendpoverty.org/news-media/press/
Interact! Leave us comments on the website, we are a community organization and you, as the community should feel like you have a voice and influence with us!
Who would you ask?
Have you ever thought about what it takes to ask for help?
Our culture values strength and independence. We live that out in the choices we make. We would rather find a way, find a solution to a problem on our own rather than ask for help. Sometimes we might ask friends or family members for help, but even then, we cringe, we hesitate and we approach with humility. We would rather not be indebted or dependent in that way.
What if you were in place where you had exhausted all your resources and ran out of choices? What if your friends and family could not help you anymore? What if there was nowhere else to turn? What if your children needed something as basic as food? What if your children had grown out of their clothes and you had no money to buy new ones? What if your head was throbbing and your face swollen from an abscess tooth that had festered too long because you didn’t have the means to get the medical attention you needed? What if you were in a dire situation that compelled you to reach out to a stranger? These are all very real situations MEND clients face every day.
With understanding what it takes to ask for help, we begin to understand the distressing circumstances so many MEND clients are in. It helps us understand how important MEND is for so many. It helps us understand the depth and magnitude of the need in our community. MEND clients are at the point where they have exhausted all other avenues. They are at the point where their friends and family cannot help.
MEND not only offers help, it offers a safe place to ask for it.
When you give pride, you receive pride
I live nearby the MEND center, and have driven past it over and over for years. I saw people line up around the block early in the morning and sighed at the constant reminder that the need was great. I thanked God that there was help for those in need. I sighed, but I kept on driving by. But one day, I decided to learn more.
I went to the MEND website to find out what the lines were about, what MEND was all about. The more I learned, the more I was impressed. MEND operates mostly on private donations, with a tiny staff, and on the power of an amazing, world class volunteer organization. The more I read, the more I wanted to be part of what was going on in that beautiful blue and orange beacon of hope on San Fernando Road.
I started by attending a volunteer’s orientation session. I was so impressed with the structure, the organization, the process and the professionalism. The people who run MEND are genuine, giving and caring, and they are changing lives. I was so excited to get started and be a part of that.
MEND is more than just about giving help. They do give help, of course, but they give so much more. They lift people up. They show them there is no shame in seeking help when you need it. They show them people really do care. They restore dignity to those who feel it has been stripped away by their circumstances. They show them a pathway to self reliance and pride. They show them there is room for them to give back one day and pay it forward. What I came to find out is that the help that I gave would end up giving me so much in return. I learned that you really can give pride to others and by doing so, you receive pride in return.
I started two years ago, and to this day I still volunteer at MEND a few hours a week. I still feel a strong sense of pride and satisfaction in knowing, in a small way, I make a difference.
This time of year, we tend to think more about giving. Christmas and gift giving are looming in the coming weeks. I invite you to give the gift of pride. Pride is something that lasts beyond the holiday season. It is something that can last a lifetime. No matter what your background or experience, MEND will find a way for you to help. And with that, you will give pride to others and receive pride in return.
— Frances Groeneman
We give to others all the time. We give pens in meetings; we give information like the time of day and directions. We empty our loose change into the “Need a Penny – Take a Penny” cups on store counters, we forward e-mail jokes, we let cars cut in front of us, we let people with only one item go to the head of the grocery store line.
I used to give all the time too. I would share my lunch with the man living in the parking lot, give my seat up on the bus, give copies of my notes in class, and give my time to babysit for free.
But there were things I could not give.
I could not give Christmas and birthday gifts to my young daughter. I wanted to, but I could not. See, I was poor. Like, “living on cash aid but still couldn’t pay the rent” poor. “Dumpster diving for recyclables” poor. “Using the same make-up three years in a row” poor. “Never turned on the lights and used the air-conditioning in the library or grocery store” poor. “Hope the bus driver doesn’t ask for my bus pass” poor. I was so poor that I would look longingly at pay phones and wish for the telekinetic power to make one burst open so I could use the spare change for diapers. I could not afford to buy the basics – even with cash aid and food stamps, the ends would not meet.
I could stand being poor. I was a student and had hope that this would not be my lot forever. But I did not want my daughter Jackie to miss out on all the normal social and cultural fun that her friends were having. I wanted her to have the memory of waking up to Christmas presents. So, when my friends and neighbors gave Jackie holiday gifts, I used to remove the gift cards and tell her the gifts were from me.
Why should you give? Give because there may not be any other way for people in poverty to receive.
— Sonya Keith