Together we grow

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Residents in the Burgland community of McComb were invited out to a Meet and Greet on May 1 at Gertrude’s Garden. The community engagement event fostered collaboration and conversation between community organizations and residents. Kingdom Outreach Ministry, YUNGCitizens, and the Black History Gallery sponsored the outreach initiative to take an active role in connecting with the community.

Kids learned about planting and growing vegetables and about the importance of keeping the neighborhood clean and free of litter.

Free food and entertainment were provided to all attendees.

A representative from the Black History Gallery said, “Hopefully we are able to do it on a consistent basis so that more people will be able to participate.”

In addition to participating in planting, kids played cornhole and made art using sidewalk chalk. Many of them were excited about having these experiences starting to take place at their doorstep in a communal fashion.

Residents also stopped by with money in hand prepared to purchase a hotdog, hot link, or burger from the smoking grill. They were surprised that the food was being served to the community at no cost. One resident remarked, “I can’t believe y’all giving free food away, that doesn’t happen in Burgland.”

A YUNGCitizens committee member shared the objective of the location of the event. “Gertrude’s Garden is a repurposed lot to provide community members with a visual representation of possibilities. We call our work, ‘planting seeds of hope.’ We know that litter, overgrown lots, and abandoned homes contribute to underlying health conditions, pests and vermins, and a feeling of isolation. We believe that the garden serves as a beacon of possibilities. We have a few flowers and a few vegetables in the garden. Concepts of aesthetics are great, but we also want to be conscious of food insecurity and mindful of creative ways to incorporate that into our work. We accept plants, garden art, and anything that will contribute to the wellness of the community we serve.”

Juangrielle Brister of Kingdom Outreach Ministry was asked why it’s important to connect with the community? She replied, “To me, personally, connecting with the community helps me to identify the problem, come up with a plan, and it shows me how to direct my prayers. There’s no way of knowing all these things without being involved in the community. Engaging in the community gives me an opportunity to encourage, empower, and build up our people. We have to become the change we want to see.”

As the kids danced to the Cupid Shuffle and the adults sang along to Franky Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go,” another generational gap had been bridged.

In terms of the impact of the Meet and Greet, Marcel McKinney from YUNGCitizens stated, “We have to keep cultivating and building to make real change.”

The work at Gertrude’s Garden reinforces the value of cultivation through agriculture and relationships. Residents are invited to plant and manage their own crops and reap the benefits of their labor of love for their families and the greater Burgland community.

When Glenda Jordan from Kingdom Outreach Ministry was asked if she’d like to participate again, she remarked, “Absolutely, without hesitation. The more I’m part of the community activities, the more I want to build the community any way I can.”

Anthony Newell, Jr., a Burgland resident, asked what he could do to help because this is a great thing going on.

Prior to closing the event down for the day, an elderly woman handed $5 to one of the sponsors to show appreciation and support. Her demonstration of what community is: everyone doing and serving in their own way illustrates the realization that together we grow.

For additional information about Gertrude’s Garden, email yungcitizens@gmail.com.