Upstate Circle of Friends and volunteers clean community garden for MLK Day

Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 10:27 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Dozens of organizations across the upstate held community service opportunities Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. One organization is trying to improve access to healthy, nutritious food right in their backyard.

Monday’s task for these volunteers required getting their hands dirty.

“We were out here working today, ‘’ said Toya Moore, the Youth Empowerment Services Program Coordinator for Upstate Circle of Friends. “We actually were helping to do beautification along the front. So we were raking leaves, we’re picking up trash” she said.

Upstate Circle of Friends welcomed close to 100 volunteers on MLK Day. Including 45 students from Bob Jones University.

“When you get a bunch of people together to just do the small things, small things make bigger things less hard,” said Erica Guell, the president of the Community Service Council.

The organization mainly serves Belle Meade, the surrounding neighborhood of more than 600 homes. They provide after school activities but also meals for kids and seniors. Soon, they’ll be providing greener options too.

“We’re in a food desert. So our goal with this organic garden is to help the community” said Delores Pinson, the founder and president of Upstate Circle of Friends.

After the nearby Bi-Lo closed years ago, Pinson says it took a toll on the community. Many people are unable to drive miles away to the next grocer.

“The aim of the farm is to relieve food insecurity” said Kim Gibson, the farm and garden manager.

Gibson says come Spring, the garden will regularly grow broccoli, turnip greens, carrots, lettuce, eggplants, herbs and more.

“We’re so dependent on grocery stores, on fast food, on restaurants for our food,” she said.

So, not only will the garden give the Belle Meade community easy access to fresh foods. They’ll teach them how to build and grow their own gardens too.

It takes a lot of work before that can happen. But it’s work volunteers say they enjoy.

“Students just want to come back time after time. Just because when they get out there, they realize oh man, this is not just work. it’s fun” said Guell.

“Everyone who comes to the garden, their inhibitions seem to melt away, and they’re able to start breathing deeply where they didn’t realize they were holding their breath and just enjoy the outdoor space” said Gibson.

Pretty soon the organization will begin hosting a market where people can come to the garden and pick their own veggies. If you want to learn more about Upstate Circle of Friends, donate or help in the garden click here.