2018-05-10 / News

Mission benefits from local construction students

Students pose with Marilyn Nichols (far left) and Sabrina VanDyke (center front), Master Gardeners, and Jason Youngs, Construction teacher Jason Youngs (center rear). 
Photo provided Students pose with Marilyn Nichols (far left) and Sabrina VanDyke (center front), Master Gardeners, and Jason Youngs, Construction teacher Jason Youngs (center rear). Photo provided GRAND BLANC — When Grand Blanc Community Schools kicked off the year with Positivity Project (P2) training, staff met community members from around Genesee County. Jason Youngs, teacher at GBHS, stopped and had a conversation with local master gardeners who volunteer at Carriage Town Ministries in Flint, as did many of the staff that day.

Master gardeners were at Rust Park to discuss the community gardens there and talk about the character trait of ‘Appreciation of beauty & excellence.’

Youngs saw an opportunity with his project, “Grand Blanc Builders of Hope” which is an organization Youngs started to support his Construction students at GBHS doing good in the community. More of their story can be found on the GoFundMe page for Builders of Hope: https:// www.gofundme.com/gbhope.

One of the master gardeners at Rust Park during P2 training was Marilyn Nichols, a longtime volunteer with Carriage Town Ministries and other projects where master gardeners help in the community. She saw a need when she and her husband Denny wanted to help out there almost 8 years ago.

Instead of sponsoring a dorm room as they had planned, they offered to start a garden project on a vacant lot Carriage Town had purchased from the Land Bank. The lot is located between the men’s dorm and a transitional home they own on Garland Street.

Sadly, Nichols’ husband passed away shortly after, but the Denny Nichols Memorial Garden was born. Food from the garden helps feed the residents of Carriage Town Ministries. Nichols and Sabrina VanDyke, both master gardeners and volunteers, discussed the need for garden boxes for people to plant in, as some residents come in with disabilities or are elderly.

Being able to garden without having to get down on the ground is a huge help. They had one garden box, but it is aging, and wasn’t really providing enough room for the people that needed the elevation.

Meanwhile, Youngs had raised some funds for “Grand Blanc Builders of Hope” and had construction students ready to be put to work. He purchased cedar wood with those funds and the students worked on the project when the weather outside wasn’t cooperating for outdoor building projects.

Cedar is expensive, but it is the best solution for planting food, because it doesn’t require chemical treatment to weather the outdoors. Each garden box cost approximately $150 in materials. When they saw the beautiful work the students had done, they expressed they would love to have a couple more, and Youngs hopes to make this happen next fall.

When their construction work on the boxes was complete, students were invited to deliver the garden beds to Carriage Town Ministries in person and take a tour of the facility. Cindy Johns, Community Engagement Director at Carriage Town, showed the students around the building and explained the services they offer to those in need, as well as the rules those residents must follow to receive services.

Residents’ beds are made every morning in the men’s dormitory, and they are expected to keep things neat and tidy. A clothes closet downstairs is available, as well as a workout room and dinner every night. Residents are expected to be in bed at 11 p.m. for lights out. In Historic Carriage Town, they run 4-bedroom transitional houses which are available by invitation after 60 days of residence in the dormitory, as well as for family housing for women and children. The construction students listened to Johns talk about the lives of residents and asked questions about the services offered there.

At the end of the tour, students backed their trucks into the drive next to the garden and unloaded the handmade cedar garden beds, carefully placing them in the Denny Nichols Memorial Garden. Nichols and VanDyke were very impressed with their work, and overjoyed to have the beautiful boxes join the garden, their “labor of love”. The garden provides healthy, fresh food for the residents such as salads and fruit, and is worked by the volunteers and residents. Youngs plans to return with another group of students to help plant vegetables soon, and students from Grand Blanc East Middle School are also working on a service learning project which includes building a gazebo for the garden.

The garden beds Youngs and his students made will be of huge service to the residents and staff at the facility, and they were extremely grateful for the donation. Youngs said he and students were happy to be of assistance and that doing the job made them all feel good about giving back to the community. — P.S.

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