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Neighbors renewing neighborhood

Posted on Oct 14, 2013, by

StThereseBlogResidents of a central city Appleton neighborhood will have resources available to grow their own food, reduce their energy usage and renew their neighborhood through a partnership of nonprofits, funded by a $55,000 grant from the Environmental Sustainability Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. 

The project will help neighbors make environmentally sound improvements in their homes, yards and neighborhood that also address economic and social concerns. At least 15 nonprofit organizations, businesses and government agencies will be involved, with nonprofit Sustainable Fox Valley serving as the lead agency in the award of the grant. The St. Therese-Columbus Elementary School-Arbutus Park area (from Packard Street to Wisconsin Avenue and Richmond to Drew streets) is the test neighborhood for the new neighbor-led initiative.

“We initiated this project to strengthen neighborhoods and put it out to the nonprofit organizations to come up with an idea,” said Curt Detjen, Community Foundation president/CEO. “The Community Foundation’s interaction with so many nonprofits and concerned donors gives us a unique perspective on community concerns, but the nonprofits know their particular specialties the best. The commitment to this project appears to be paying off because we’re seeing a broad partnership come together to offer the neighbors the tools needed to improve the place where they live. Then we expect to see what works repeated in neighborhood after neighborhood.”

Members of St. Therese Catholic Parish in Appleton and their neighbors launched the project when they broke ground for a community garden Saturday, Oct. 12.

Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna was among those helping to dedicate the garden.

“Government, we can work really hard to start a neighborhood program, but it doesn’t take root until the people take it over,” he said.

The parish will be assisted by the Community Garden Partnership of Goodwill Industries of East Central Wisconsin.

“This community garden will be an asset for the neighborhood and our community for years to come,” said Alex Tyink, program director of the Community Garden Partnership. “Gardening provides access to economical, nutritious food options that have a profound impact on personal and community wellness.”

Andy Sommers, a resident and leader in the St. Therese garden project, said that while the gardeners shape the soil, the soil will be shaping them.

The partnership behind the neighborhood project also includes leadership from Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity, East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, the City of Appleton and others.

“The purpose of the project is to support people who are acting to produce a strong, sustainable quality of life in their neighborhoods,” said project coordinator Julie Filapek. “Establishing a neighborhood community garden is a wonderful way to launch this work in our pilot neighborhood.”

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