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Inclusion Quarter Wrap-Up

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Greenville Forward implements and facilitates the goals of Vision 2025. The current vision emphasizes ensuring a high quality of life in Greenville around seven primary focus areas – Learning, Creative, Inclusion, Green, Health, Innovation, and Connected. Each quarter we plan our programming around one focus area.

For the past three months, Greenville Forward’s programs and events have centered on the Inclusion focus area of Vision 2025. It has been an exciting, yet challenging, quarter as we’ve explored how Greenville can be inclusive of everyone. Through lunch discussions, presentations, tours and more, we’ve sought to understand the issues and create dialogue in order to shepherd our community toward Vision 2025 goals:

“In 2025, we dream that Greenville is open and welcoming to all, regardless of what you look like, how much you make, where and if you worship, where you come from, or who you love.”

In January, we kicked off the quarter with a packed Momentum discussion on LGBT relations. Despite the fact that Greenville County still has an anti-gay resolution on the books, attendees agreed that a closed-minded approach is not representative of the Greenville community at large. In contrast, there are many groups that are welcoming and affirming of all sexualities, such as Gender Benders, Warehouse Theatre, Greenville UU and more, helping to move the conversation forward. In response to the discussion, Greenville Forward took the opportunity to add a clause in its Equal Employment Opportunity Policy to explicitly include sexuality.

In February, we took a closer look at poverty and race relations. After a series of Greenville News articles last November, there is a renewed interest in Greenville’s homeless population, and many are eager to help. Beth Templeton, with Our Eyes Were Opened, led a poverty simulation at Long Branch Baptist Church, which allowed participants to have a more personal experience of the myriad effects and impacts of poverty. Greenville Forward members also toured the White Horse Road crescent, one of Greenville’s most impoverished neighborhoods, and learned about the work being done by United Way partners to educate, empower and uplift these communities out of poverty.

In March, we turned our focus to religious diversity and celebrated Upstate International month. At another packed Momentum discussion, participants shared that Greenville may be known as the “heart of the Bible belt,” but is actually more accepting than they expected (despite having to answer “where do you go to church” quite often). At our Progression series, Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship minister, Pat Jobe, poignantly shared how religious inclusion is necessary for Greenville’s future and how groups such as the Year of Altruism and the InterFaith Forum are bridging the divide through their work.

Reflecting on the past quarter, the overall consensus is that we’ve come a long way, but can still improve some areas, namely LGBT relations, race relations, and religious diversity.  Although our programs are transitioning to the Green focus area in April, the conversation on diversity and inclusion does not end here.  In the coming weeks, Greenville Forward will re-launch our Inclusion Task Force to re-look at the Vision so that we are sure to keep moving toward a Greenville that is open welcoming to all. Please join us in this journey.

Getting to Know Your Neighbor

Since Lyn Riddle’s article in the Greenville News last November about homelessness and Tent City, there has been a lot of talk about the issue of homelessness in Greenville County.  The articles focusing on Tent City, including poignant photos of life under the Pete Hollis Bridge, exposed the many challenges facing Greenville’s homeless, and began to tell the stories of those who live on the streets and those helping them.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but despite the long list of recommended agencies already working to address homelessness, many responded to the articles by dropping off food, clothes, blankets, and firewood for those living in Tent City.  Often this caused more harm than good.

Tent City

Source: Greenville News

As someone who lives on the so-called “homeless triangle,” the route between service providers to the homeless in Downtown Greenville, I am an observer to the prevalence of homelessness in our community and the people who walk the streets day and night.  In fact, my front porch has become a safe haven for those who need refuge from the rain or a quiet place to sleep at night.  Although it makes my parents queasy, I don’t ask these people to leave; instead I ask for their names.  These individuals, who I could prematurely write off as drug addicts, alcoholics or mentally ill, are still valuable members of our society, whether or not any of those identifiers are true.  Many of them look at me like I’m crazy for not immediately disregarding them.  Then they start to tell me their stories, very similar to the ones told in the Greenville News article.  Each of the stories is equally heartbreaking, but I resist the urge to hand out cash, instead seeking to relate to this individual as an equal and better understand their struggles and needs.

A few years ago, my response would have been very different, but then I started to volunteer at Triune Mercy Center, read books like Toxic Charity, and attended poverty tours and simulations with Beth Templeton’s “Our Eyes Were Opened.”  Through these experiences, I learned that I must first understand the complexity and humanity of poverty before I can respond with wisdom and compassion.  And as someone who did not grow up in poverty, I cannot learn about poverty solely from books, but from listening to those living in poverty and allowing my mindset to change.

This weekend, Greenville Forward invites you to participate in a poverty simulation with Beth Templeton from “Our Eyes Were Opened.”  In this 2-hour facilitated simulation, you will experience what others in our community experience 24-7.  You will be forced to work with others to survive, and probably experience a wide range of emotions accordingly.  Through this simulation, your mindset towards poverty may just begin to change.  In the discussion afterward we will discuss the different ways to address poverty in our community.  Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind experience.  Get to know your neighbor better.

Register HERE.

Building Community in the Garden

This weekend marks the second community garden symposium, hosted by Gardening for Good.  On Saturday, Jan. 18, over 100 new, aspiring and experienced gardeners from across the Upstate region will come together at Roper Mountain Science Center for a full day of dynamic speakers and local vendors to help them become successful in the community garden setting.  For those new to gardening, Master Gardeners will present basic tips and insider secrets for getting your “green thumb.”  For those who enjoy the end product of gardening (fresh produce!), local chefs and dietitians will present on how to build a seasonal, healthful menu.  For those looking to start or join a community garden, there are panel discussions with experienced community gardens equipped to answer all of your questions.  No matter your interest or experience, there is something for you to enjoy at the Community Garden Symposium (including lunch catered by the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery). 

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The goal of the Community Garden Symposium is to equip community gardeners across the Upstate with the tools and knowledge necessary to garden successfully and sustainably in their respective communities.  Already, the community garden movement has expanded rapidly throughout the Upstate and continues to grow everyday.  It is our hope to support this movement by providing community gardeners with the opportunity to hear from keynote speakers, attend workshops, information sessions, panel discussions, and visit vendors to help them become equipped for future gardening ventures.  For the full agenda visit HERE.  And to register visit HERE.

Gardening for Good, a program of Greenville Forward, is a network of local community gardens that builds upon the energy of the community garden movement, coordinates neighborhood redevelopment efforts, improves the health of residents and neighborhoods, and transforms Greenville through gardening.

May Momentum Recap – Keeping Greenville Cool

In the past few months, it seems that Greenville has been recognized as one of the best places to live in the country – for families, young professionals, international businesses and more.  We’ve suddenly become “the cool kids on the block.”  At our recent Momentum discussion, we explored the “cool factor,” asking WHY is Greenville cool and HOW can we stay cool?  This is what the group had to say.

We started the discussion by defining “coolness” – a sometimes amorphous term that we are all striving for in some way or fashion.  The group listed words such as attractive, uniqueness, current, relevant, unexpected, accessible, progressive and openness.  Greenville may not be all of these things at all times, but if one thing is certain, everyone in the room thinks Greenville is a cool place to live, today.  But it wasn’t always this way.  Only a few years ago, Main St. was a place everyone avoided after 5PM and many young people found reasons to leave after graduation, vowing never to return.  Then something happened and things began to change.  Falls Park was formed, the Camperdown bridge was removed, a baseball stadium was built in the West End, restaurants and business returned to Main St. and more.  Slowly, the culture shifted and suddenly Greenville became a cool place to live, work and play.

So, HOW did this happen?  Did we plan to become cool or did it just happen?  The simple answer is YES, both.  One attendee described this success story as the 4 P’s of coolness: people, places, programs and planning.  A good example of the 4 P’s is Fall Park, which took years of careful planning and innovative programs to become the hallmark of our beloved City.  More than once, the group discussed Falls Park as a cool place in Greenville, where people are known to picnic on a sunny day or enjoy Shakespeare in the Park during the summer months.  In the words of Russell Stall, Greenville is a “30 year overnight success” story.  Now that we are cool, and recognized nationally, the group said that we need to stay cool by focusing on connectivity, education, and job creation to attract, recruit and retain the young professionals, families and businesses that keep us cool.  In addition, they said we need to consider smart growth and transit options between other municipalities in Greenville County to connect cool places in Fountain Inn, Traveler’s Rest and Simpsonville.  If you have ideas about how to keep Greenville cool, let us know at whatifgreenville.com!

Falls Park

April Momentum Recap – The Arts of Money


Icon_creativeAt our recent Momentum lunch series, a dynamic group of business leaders, interested community members and artists discussed the importance of arts in Greenville.  The good news is that the groups believes that Greenville is VERY supportive of its artists – but there is still more to be done.  During our hour-long discussion, we considered the importance of cultivating a creative community, the role of art in economic development and how we can better support a thriving arts community.  Here is a short recap.

First of all, what is art?  Succinctly, art is “stuff people create.”  But more importantly, why is it important for us to be a creative community that supports the arts?  According the group attending, art defines a sense of place and community.  It is a “shared experience” that brings people together whether in a coffee shop, art galley, monster truck rally or concert hall.  The great thing about art is that it is inherently communal, but also personal because it allow individual expression and interpretation.  Based on the discussion, creative communities, such as Greenville, are forward-thinking and welcoming because they cultivate community through the arts, no matter the medium.

In Greenville, it is very clear the role of arts in economic development.  The Peace Center, Flour Field, and Poinsett and Hyatt Regency hotels are hallmarks of downtown’s revitalization and each intimately connected to the arts.  On the other hand, arts provide an intangible benefit because they provide a means of communication through the shared experience and emotional connection.  Whether it’s through community gardens, First Fridays, street performers or flash mobs, creative communities are more vibrant and successful not just because of the economic development impact but because of the stronger social connections among residents.

Greenville is often recognized as one of the top small arts towns in the country with many popular festivals such as Artisphere, Euphoria and Fall for Greenville.  One attendee described Greenville’s image as “creatively corporate,” reflecting the balance between industry and arts in town.  But what can we do to further arts in Greenville?  Suggestions include:

- A community theater
- Better marketing for the Far West Wend
- Better arts education in public schools
- An avant garde art scene
- Help artists find multiple jobs

If you have an idea, let us know at whatifgreenville.com  No matter your art form, we are excited you call Greenville home.  We hope you will continue the conversation on cultivating a creative and artistic community in Greenville.  And don’t forget to join us at our monthly Momentum lunch discussion series.


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A Network of Community Gardens – Now Online

After months of planning and preparation, Gardening For Good released their new website and logo this week featuring Greenville’s vast network of community gardens.  Web design company, Engenius, awarded Gardening for Good a grant in order to make this new website possible.  As a network, Gardening for Good can be amorphous at times, representing a coalition of gardens, each with their own identity, mission and community.  Gardening for Good celebrates the diversity of community gardens in Greenville and the new website provides a platform to highlight the great work being done in these gardens.  If you want to get involved and participate in Greenville’s community garden movement, Gardening for Good’s website is a great place to become informed of what’s available.

If the saying is true, that a picture is worth a thousand words, then few words are needed on the new website.  All of the pictures featured on the website are from Greenville community gardens.  In addition, there is an interactive map of the 70+ community gardens in Greenville County.  These gardens are found in neighborhoods, community centers, churches, schools, businesses, non-profits and more!  Over the coming months, individual pages will be added for each of the gardens as well as a robust resource center for starting and sustaining a community garden.  This is only the beginning.  We hope you will join us in transforming Greenville through gardening.  www.ggardeningforgood.com

Faith-Based Community Gardens

Beyond the traditional neighborhood community garden, there are many other groups of people growing food in the Upstate, such as faith-based communities.  Faith-based community gardens are funded and supported primarily through religious organizations, such as churches and synagogues or faith-based non-profit organizations. Faith-based gardens are often developed with the intent of providing fresh produce to members of the religious organization or those in need in the local community. Some produce donations from the bounty of these gardens are provided to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or food banks to ensure that those in need have access to healthy, fresh, and affordable produce.

Here in Greenville, there are existing community gardens at First Christ Church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, John Calvin Presbyterian Church and St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, to name a few.  In fall 2011, Triune Mercy Center joined the community garden network when volunteers and parishioners alike joined to build 4 raised beds.  The food grown in Triune’s small plots supply weekly grocery distribution to families and individuals that would otherwise lack fresh produce.  There are plans this spring to expand the garden with blueberry bushes and fig trees!  If you are a member of a faith-based community and want to start a community garden, contact Gardening for Good today!

Community Gardens – The Neighborhood

As we mentioned last week, the heart and soul of a community garden is its members.  Although most people imagine community gardens to be a few raised beds serving a handful of families, they are actually as diverse as their human counterparts, ranging in size, function, purpose, style, and vegetation.  In Greenville, each garden is unique in its own way and over the next few weeks we will highlight some of the diversity found among Greenville community gardens, starting with the most recognizable: the neighborhood community garden.

For most people, the traditional community garden is located in a neighborhood setting to help build community ties while experimenting in the garden.  In neighborhoods both large and small, gardens are supported by the surrounding residents. Most garden volunteers live in the neighborhood surrounding the garden, creating a heightened sense of community and place. Although neighborhood gardens may receive volunteers from outside residences, they are primarily organized and run by local residents dedicated to the garden effort.

Here in Greenville, community gardens are in neighborhoods all across town, possibly right near you!  For example, Greenville Organic Foods Organization (GOFO) sponsors a community garden in the North Main neighborhood.  Greengate Community Initiative started a community garden on reclaimed land in their neighborhood on the eastside.  The Hampton Street Children’s Garden works with neighborhood children to grow produce to distribute to residents in the Hampton-Pickney Historic District.  City of Greenville also supports gardens in the Greenline-Spartanburg and Nichotown neighborhoods.  To the north, innovative residents in Sans Souci planted a community garden to support friends and neighbors last year.  Overall, neighborhood gardens are robust and flourishing in Greenville.  If your neighborhood or community association does not yet have a garden, contact Gardening for Good to discuss the possibility today!

What is a community garden?

As we described last week, Gardening for Good is a network and resource center for community gardens in Greenville, SC.  So, you may be wondering, what is a community garden?

At Gardening for Good, we support the American Community Garden Association’s broad and inclusive definition of a community garden as any piece of land gardened by a group of people.  We believe the core aspect of a community garden is civic engagement, or more plainly, the people.  Although gardens are composed of a variety of produce, herbs and flowers, community gardens come to life through the tender love and care of their garden members.  For this reason, we seek to include and celebrate the many types and varieties of community gardens available in Greenville County.

Community gardens can serve various communities including neighborhoods, after school centers, public parks, schools, churches, businesses and non-profits.  The more than 40 community gardens here in Greenville serve all of these different communities and more!  Over the coming weeks we will provide highlights of community gardens, but for now here are a few highlights.

As you can see from these photos, community gardens range in size, format and style, reflecting the various community where they are located.  Greenville, SC has a very diverse range of community gardens – contact Gardening for Good to get involved today!

Gardening for Good – Introduction

Greetings cyber world.  This is my first post on the Greenville Forward blog, so I feel it is important to introduce myself and Gardening for Good.

Gardenin for Good fellow

That’s me in the picture above.  My name is Reece Lyerly and I am the Gardening for Good fellow with Greenville Forward.  Here are a few fast facts about myself.  I am originally from Roswell, GA.  I studied Earth and Environmental Sciences at Furman University.  I am an avid runner, but more importantly I love to be outdoors.  My life goal is to be a contestant on Survivor (yes, I love reality tv).  My new year’s resolutions for 2012 are to live simply, enjoy fresh cut flowers, cook often and drink lots of hot tea.  In the past 6 months, I’ve become a community garden advocate and enthusiast through my position at Gardening for Good and I look forward to sharing more about that venture in the coming months.

Gardening for Good is a new collaboration in response to the rapidly expanding community garden efforts in Greenville, SC.  Gardening for Good provides a network and resource center to help community gardens flourish and produce abundant harvests for their members and surrounding communities.  Gardening for Good seeks to improve public health, strengthen community ties and transform Greenville through community gardening.  For 2012, Gardening for Good hopes to see more Greenville residents join community gardens, growing an abundance of fresh produce, making new friends and being active in the process.  Check out our website (www.ggardeningforgood.com) for more information on how you can be involved.

Check back next Friday for your weekly community garden post!  We will define what it means to be a ‘community garden.’

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