United Way holds Day of Action in Lincolnton

By Michelle T. Bernard - Staff Writer/Lincoln Times News

Another one of the United Way of Lincoln County’s annual Day of Action events is in the books. Once again, the Oaklawn Community and the former Oaklawn Rosenwald School, now occupied by Communities in Schools of Lincoln County,were the beneficiaries, with Hesed House of Hope receiving assistance as well. Over 60 volunteers helped throughout the day on Thursday with the various projects.

At the former Oaklawn Rosenwald School, now called the Oaklawn Community Center, volunteers constructed and installed four raised garden beds as well as two picnic tables to be used for gardening programs which will be offered throughout the year. A compost bin was constructed as well and all four beds were filled with garden soil and irrigation systems installed. At Hesed House, volunteers worked on the nature trail and clearing an area for a future playground.

“Our hope is to get the neighborhood involved through the kids,” United Way of Lincoln County executive director Kathy Vinzant said. “Don Taylor, who’s a master gardener, the local 4-H club, county extension service and others will help out with getting it going. There’s a need in this neighborhood to teach self-sufficiency as well as to provide vegetables, given the poverty rate in Lincolnton is so high. This area is a food desert.”

A “food desert” is defined by the USDA as parts of the country where affordable fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods are not readily available. 

Taylor, who is a retired teacher, helped create a community garden and instructional center at Sally’s YMCA in Denver. Vinzant reached out to him to help with the project at Oaklawn. 

“Being a retired science teacher, gardening is right up my alley,” he said. “As I retired, I needed to find something to do so I got involved in the community garden in Denver. Those boxes (pointing to the raised beds) are just a quarter of what the garden’s about. The garden’s about the people.”

Referring to the daycare center that’s adjacent to Communities in Schools as a “trapped audience,” Taylor plans to get the children involved in the garden with the intention that it catches on with older children and their parents living in the community.

“We’ll start out planting some carrot, flower and herb seeds and then in a few months, plant some garlic,” he said. “By then we’ll have done a whole season of teaching kids what’s in the garden. Eventually we want to get into cooking methods and some nutrition information.” 

All supplies and tools needed for the work that was done was funded through donations with Lowe’s being the biggest donor through their Lowe’s Heroes Program. 

“A certain amount of funds are given to each store each year and those stores get to pick what it is they’d like to sponsor or be a part of in their local communities,” Jake Rollins, store manager of the Lincolnton Lowe’s. “We helped out last year during the Day of Action, we’re a bigger part of it this year mainly because it aligns more with what Lowe’s is all about if you think about what Lowe’s offers for gardening. We felt we needed to get behind it a little more this year.”

Lowe’s donated all of the wood that was used to make raised garden beds and compost station, garden tools, plumbing materials to be used for drip irrigation, two picnic tables and a storage building to store the tools and other supplies. In addition, Lowe’s employees helped out throughout the day.