This week Big Ugly hosted a visit from the Bonner Scholars of Earlham College in Richmond, IN. Of course we enjoyed the time we spent with the students. They helped out at the Community Center with the Grow Appalachia tasks. This post was written by an Earlham student, Cara Marie Farris.
Today there is a lot of excitement around the Big Ugly Community Center because it is the Spring Fling for the local community. This morning I spent time in the greenhouse preparing for garden activities that would take place later in the afternoon, when I finished up for lunch I wasn’t expecting to see the entire Big Ugly Community in the center; it was rejuvenating to be around that much energy and see how many people are connected to this center. Seeing the strong ties that this place has with the local community that definitely made the work that we (me and about 10 other volunteers) did on both Thursday and this morning (Saturday) feel more meaningful to us because we realized just how important the center truly is to those who are connected to it. Big Ugly Community Center, being completely misrepresented by its name is a place for the community to come together to support each other and learn from one another. It is the place for community development in Big Ugly West Virginia.
As a volunteer in the garden I spent time on Thursday outside building raised garden beds with another volunteer, while others tilled the landscape for children to plant flowers, filled the raised beds with manure, and did a general clean up of the garden of larger sticks and debris. Some of us working in the garden have never worked outdoors before and every activity done was a learning experience for someone, and I especially had to learn to work in harmony with one of the other volunteers because out task was to build a raised garden bed. When using hammers while someone else is holding the nail to be hammered is a great opportunity to learn the value of successful teamwork. That was the main focus on Thursday.
The work on Saturday was completely different than it had been on Thursday. On Saturday, a group of us spent time replanting tomato plants while another group worked on building a fence to protect the garden and/or fruit trees from deer. I was part of the team that replanted the tomato plants, which I particularly enjoyed because for many it was their first time caring for food plants and teaching someone the basics of gardening of garden is an invaluable skill that this community center teaches to youth of the community, volunteers, and anyone else willing to learn.
As a volunteer that is just here for a few days I am disappointed that I do not know when I will be back to this small place in West Virginia. This community center has such potential for community development with the new garden because a strong community already exists around it. As an Environmental Studies major, currently focused on community food issues and having researched best practices for community development, I could not have more confidence for this community center and the garden as a place that is going to be sustained by the entire community, across all ages groups, for years to come.