Tag Archives: charity

Urban Gardening

picture-5I recently interview Barry Furlonger of The Downtown Mission.

The interview will show up on Tuesday, on this site, after the shorter (by half) interview airs on Not In My Backyard on CJAM 91.5FM at noon.

I tried to stay away from questions of donation amounts and holiday hardship. I think it’s pretty well-known that charities get a lot of help during the holidays. People are in the giving mood, or at least they get into the giving mood after watching It’s a Wonderful Life or Secret Millionaire. The charities get a heap of help in one or two months, and then run a deficit for the remainder of the year. They struggle month after month, hoping people will run food drives and collect goods they are in need of for the other 10 months they provide food and shelter.

I asked Furlonger about the usefulness of a garden. An urban garden, downtown, on dead Windsor land (of which there’s a ton) could keep a steady supply of fresh vegetables to supply the kitchen to feed those in dire need. I have been reading/listening to Michael Pollan talk on google videos, ted.com, NPR’s Fresh Air, etc., etc. and he is all about food education. Teaching kids where food comes from, and having them keep a garden at school, understanding how valuable real food is. When they see how much work it is, they understand that it is not something to be thrown away or wasted.

I guess I was channeling this line of thought when talking to Furlonger. I brought it up because he said the Mission is unable to accommodate for more than 100 volunteers. This surprised me greatly, because I thought, “The more the merrier.” Not so. You can only fit so many people in the kitchen. You can only have some many jobs for them to do. I began thinking that a garden, located downtown, donated temporarily by a land owner or the city, could be operated, maintained, and serviced by volunteers. More than the 100 could get their hands dirty. In fact, it’s possible that the people being taken care of could be taught how a successful vegetable garden is run, yielding healthy food.

Furlonger seemed interested in this, but with his hands as full as they are, it is likely a project that someone else would have to take on in order to A) find the land, B) find a land owner/city willing to donate the space C) get the administration of the Downtown Mission informed and educated on how to take “possession” of the land and how to cultivate it properly. It would be a big project, and maybe something that Fed Up Windsor could make a great deal of impact with along with the other foodies in this city. There is no shortage of organic food experts and locavores in this city, and there is no dirth of HUGE garden-keepers who could share their ideas also…like Steve Green and Scotty Hughes…Mark Buckner…tons of others…

Anyone got any thoughts on what roadblocks one could encounter, and overcome?

Anyone know of any realistic ways this could take place?

I just think it is important for The Downtown Mission to have a project that HELPS them become more self-sufficient rather than “hoping” for steady, weekly support from people who are just trying to make ends meet during the year. Only good things could come from something like this. Heck! They could even sell the surplus to local restaurants or locavores (local food conscious eaters wanting to know where their food is grown).

I know that there is something like this on Vimy (I think it’s Vimy or Lens) near Howard Avenue, just east of Dayus Roofing and Windows, east of Angilari Lumber. There’s a huge clinic complex there…and two sets of railroad tracks. My father lives on Louis Avenue, between Ypres and Vimy (I think it’s Vimy or Lens) and Louis ends on the north side at this LARGE garden. The garden is closest to the (directly south of, and almost touching) the trackson the North side of Lens or Vimy. I believe it is run by a native co-op, but I’m not sure WHO runs it. Likely one of my readers does. Help us out.

Gets my brain ticking.


Secret Millionaire

Honest to God…I like something on Fox.

I watch TV almost never.

The TV comes on at night (sometimes), when the work and creative time is done. Basketball games, football games, baseball games, maybe a Law & Order will satiate me as I try to wind-down.

But dammit, I found a new show that I mostly like.

TV has sucked the big one for so long, it’s a marvel that it has lasted until now. It’s like the Big 3 auto makers. There’s nothing consumers really want…nothing with substance, or much entertainment value. It should be allowed to die so that we can get on with amalgamating our computers and TVs as entertainment/information devices. Enough editorializing.

Secret Millionaire is done in the style of Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, with the constant story-line spoilers, and UNENDING TRAIL OF REPETITION every single time they return from a commercial. Also this one-hour reality series should be 30 minutes long.

Here’s the praise:

I have yet to watch a single episode without getting emotional.

Millionaires begin the show by bragging about their mansions, millions, and gadgets. it’s like MTV’s “Cribs” without famous people.

After this intro happens, we learn that they have volunteered to be sent into a part of the country (near where they live) where they will live in poverty for one week. They will be followed by a film crew. They are to explain to all of the new impoverished community that they are part of a documentary about surviving in Watts, or Compton, or Katrina-ravaged cities, etc.

They then spend time (alone or with their spouse) lying to people in the community, telling them that they are new to the area, on hard times, and are looking to volunteer or get a job. They are also only allowed to spend $127 (approx) on food and toiletries for the week, while living in squalor.

Inevitably, they are greeted by the locals with friendly smiles, and warm words. They quickly find the people in the area making a difference for those whose lives are a constant struggle. They realize how it is to live in a community with violence, or strife, or hunger, or sickness, and they are commonly awestruck by what good, wholesome people are up against. Often times, these folks are in the place they’re in because of incarceration, natural disaster, death, disease, or catastrophe (financial and otherwise), and the sympathy on the faces of the millionaires is real. They are sad. They are crushed. They have a reformed idea of poverty and a new hope for humanity by the time the week is up.

I think this is similar to my trip to El Salvador when I was 18. Seeing the sweat shops, seeing the people toiling in the fields at the break of dawn, meeting those who were injured in civil war…you realize they are normal people in extraordinary circumstances. They are trying. They are surviving. It changes you. It changed me.

So this experience, clearly, changes the millionaire.

They are then obligated, by the contract of the show, to give at least $100,000 of their own money to some of the people/organizations they met/worked with during their time in poverty. I’ve seen the money go to people rebuilding community outreach centres, a woman’s group dedicated to helping grieving woman deal with deaths in the family,  a young cancer-sufferer ‘s family who cannot afford treatments, and more ultra-deserving members of the communities involved in this show.

I urge you to check it out.

I think it runs on Wednesday nights.

I still cannot believe that Fox makes a show this worthwhile.