My name is Christine S. Cofer, an employee with Catawba County Government and the Founder/Director of the Western NC Epilepsy Association. For the past several years I have planted a small vegetable garden in my backyard producing an abundance of food that not only fed my family during the summer but throughout the year as well. With the flailing economy, loss of jobs, and increased need for services (such as food stamps) in Catawba County, it occurred to me that a great deal of food could be provided to those in need via a larger community garden. While working on a County project, I became aware of some county property that is not being utilized. Since late fall 2009, I felt a calling from God to take this property and make it useful to numerous families experiencing Epilepsy and hardships in Catawba County.
Anti-seizure medications (as well as many others) can cause depletion in vitamins and minerals in your body. Studies have found lack of Vitamins E, B6, minerals sodium, calcium and magnesium (to name a few) can alter the electrical activity of brain cells and cause seizures. At one time, children under 16 were found to be the majority experiencing Epilepsy. But over the last few decades, young adults and elders have caught up and are experiencing Epilepsy as much as children, if not more. This is due to after effects from those experiencing strokes, alzheimers, dementia, brain injury and stress experienced by our war heroes in the military and those injured playing certain sports, just to name a few. As with almost all medical issues, the better you take care of your body, you lessen the chances of additional health complications. Stress and lack of sleep can play a major role in helping to minimize seizures. By taking care of yourself and limiting stress (emotional, physical, and financial) you help minimize the likelihood of inducing additional seizures.
I approached the County Government and School System about the possibilty of utilizing these properties to help provide food to these residents. Catawba County Government and the School System have agreed. The project has been named, HOPE (Help Our People Eat).
Mr. Dewey Harris, Assistant County Manager and Mr. Steve Demiter, Associate Superintendent of Catawba County Schools, stated they would agree as long as a 501(c)3 organization leads the project. The Western NC Epilepsy Association is designated 501(c)3 organization and has agreed to be the Prior Leasee to the Land. As the director of this organization, I saw this as a great opportunity for members of the Western NC Epilepsy Association to get outside more frequenty; work together not only with other members, but the general public; learn and/or improve gardening & nutrition skills; obtain homegrown food for themselves to cut down food cost; physical exercise; build self-esteem; and at the same time help others in the community in need. The Western NC Epilepsy Association would like to partner with other non-profit organization(s) or group of individuals to share in the planning and implementation to bring this garden project to reality.
I spoke to Rev. Robert Silber, Director of Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry, Hickory Soup Kitchen Board of Directors, and The Corner Table Staff. All were very excited about the possibilities. Great concerns were expressed for 2010 food availability because suppliers who have been faithful are now also assisting in the effort to make food available to the people of Haiti. For this reason all churches supporting ECCCM, Hickory Soup Kitchen and The Corner Table are now asked to strongly consider participating and partnering with the WNCEA in thie garden project.
The property is located in the center of Newton and off Springs Rd with easy to access is available to all of us. The locations are within a short distance of ECCCM, Hickory Soup Kitchen, and The Corner Table which will facilitate easy access to and delivery of food.
In 2011, WNCEA – HOPE was excited and proud to announce Michelle Rimer, Director of LenoirRhyne University’s Solmaz Institute for Obesity and the Hickory YMCA are partnering on the project in 2011 and will establish a third garden located at the Hickory YMCA. Obesity is a difficult problem to address because it is influenced by a multitude of factors, including genetics, culture, lifestyle and available resources. For example, some neighborhoods have limited access to fresh vegetables, although they do have many fast-food restaurants. In some communities, parks may not be safe enough for children to use. Other neighborhoods do not have sidewalks, discouraging people from walking. “We need to create communities that are wellness- oriented,” Rimer said. We would like to use it as a teaching garden and the produce to feed children at the camps and the preschool (YMCA has a high rate of low income participants and have a chef that can help to prep the food). LRU students and the Y’s Black Achievers will be helping to work the garden and provide education to the children and their families about the importance of fresh produce. Through this partnership, we hope to develop young leaders to make changes that promote wellness in their own neighborhoods.
HOPE is also a great opportunity for individuals involved in Boy & Girl Scouts, 4-H, Adult/Youth Church & Social Groups, Sorority Groups, and/or studying agriculture, nutrition etc. We encourage individuals and groups interested to strongly consider contacting us.
HOPE is a great educational, social and cultural experience for everyone involved. We will be more than happy to keep records of hours individual(s) volunteer in order so he/she will receive deserved recognition through grades, badges, ribbons etc.
We ask that you advertise this project to your church members, friends, co-workers etc and stress the need of food as expressed above. Hours are flexible and schedules are available on our website. Weekday mornings and/or afternoons could become a possibility as well depending on the volume of interest. Volunteers will be given the opportunity if desired, to take adequate bag of vegetables home in return for their community service. We also see this as a great opportunity for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are experiencing unemployment and/or a tight budget.
Thank you in advance for your time and effort on behalf of those in need in Catawba County. I truly appreciate your allowing me an opportunity to present this project.
Christine S. Cofer/WNC Epilepsy Association DirectorHOPE (Help Our People Eat)