By Maureen Smith
CLARKSDALE – A community empowerment group based out of Clarksdale Immaculate Conception Parish is seeking volunteers for its first project, a community garden. The Community Engagers, led by Henry White plans to make use of a six-acre plot behind the old school on Ritchie Avenue.
White approached Father Scott Thomas, pastor, about starting a non-profit community empowerment group. The garden was the first project. “When he said he was willing to head it up, I was all for it,” said Father Thomas. “I love when parishioners are ready to take on a project like this one,” he added. White is a Delta native, but just moved back to the area and is ready to make a difference.
Local farmer Bowen Flowers has agreed to prepare the land for planting. White is appealing to parishioners and community leaders to subdivide and plant the plots and maintain the garden. He sent out a flyer seeking volunteers and donations of cash or seeds. “I employ my fellow Catholic brethren to stand with us to provide this wonderful opportunity to serve the poor and underserved residents of Clarksdale by offering affordable and healthy accessible food choices,” wrote White in the flyer.
White has been working on this project for some time, seeking help from both local and state resources. “He had a meeting at City Hall and has been speaking with other groups,” said Father Scott. “This could turn into a nice ecumenical effort, which would be great,” he said.
“Alcorn State University Farm Extension agency conducted a site visit and helped us develop a plan to pretreat the soil and prepare for planting,” wrote White in an email to Mississippi Catholic. “My pastor, Father Scott Thomas and fellow parishioners from Immaculate Conception and St. Elisabeth along with Catholic Charities-North West offered invaluable resource,” he wrote. “I thought nothing else could top my sense pride in seeing a community pull together for the good to start and outreach campaign that would be beneficial to the Upper Brick Yard and essentially our bordering neighborhoods of Magnolia Courts and Willow Park Apartments,” he added.
White paid a visit to the community garden Sister Kay Burton, SNJM, coordinates in Jonestown. Her garden provides residents a place to grow produce to sell at the Clarksdale Farmer’s Market and other venues. She and the children in her summer school program also plant their own vegetables along the edges. She said she was happy to host White to show him a sample of how her program works.
Anyone who wants to donate time, seeds or money can contact White at 443-939-0575 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Maureen Smith