A volunteer from the Crescent Park Community Garden shows off some of the produce grown for, and donated to, Alex House’s Emergency Food Support Project. (Contributed photo)

A volunteer from the Crescent Park Community Garden shows off some of the produce grown for, and donated to, Alex House’s Emergency Food Support Project. (Contributed photo)

ALEX HOUSE: Finding opportunities within the challenges

‘SOX BOX’ project provides free weekly box deliveries of fresh local food

A year into the public health emergency, and with the advent of a vaccination program, now is a good time to reflect on the new and changing needs of our community – as well as the creative and innovative ways folks have stepped up to support neighbours.

For Alexandra Neighbourhood House, strengthening local food security and creating opportunities to spend time outdoors and connect with nature are two ways we are responding as we move into spring.

COVID-19 hit just as our two community gardens were moving into a new season. With safety modifications, we opened Alexandra and Crescent Park Community Gardens for a new season, creating a space for folks to learn about organic gardening and grow produce. Ten plots, along with beds at Camp Alex, were set aside for our ‘SOX BOX’ emergency food hamper project.

Volunteers adopted these plots, and the food harvested was taken to Camp Alex for distribution.

The ‘SOX BOX’ project provides free weekly box deliveries of fresh local food to seniors, youth and families most affected by the ongoing pandemic.

The hampers contain food donated by local grocers, supplemented by fresh produce donated by our community gardeners.

Funded by the United Way, and supported by several volunteers, every week the project distributes in excess of 30 boxes, supporting over 100 residents.

And a year on, we are excited to announce that applications for plots in Alexandra and Crescent Park Community Gardens are open until March 15.

Gardening is a great opportunity to be outside and active, to connect with neighbours sharing a similar passion, learn about best practices from one of our certified master gardeners, and – of course – grow your own fruits and veggies.

Gardening is also an opportunity to support the ‘SOX BOX’ project and their community by tending to the plots set aside for the program. Find out more at www.alexhouse.net/community-gardens

Another program that was affected by the pandemic was our Neighbourhood Small Grants.

How can community be brought together during a time of isolation? Funded by the Vancouver Foundation, project leaders around the Lower Mainland found creative and successful ways of connecting folks through online classes, food drives and providing communication technology for low-income seniors.

We’re doing it again this year – this time with two cycles in the spring and fall.

The spring 2021 Neighbourhood Small Grant cycle is open until April 20. Grants of up to $500 support the creative initiative of ordinary folks wanting to create connections and enrich individual lives.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our last cycle saw amazing activities created, which helped to build community, strengthen resilience, foster creativity and well-being, and relieve feelings of loneliness and isolation.

I’m looking forward to seeing where imagination will lead this year. For more information and to apply, visit www.neighbourhoodsmallgrants.ca.

Neil Fernyhough is manager of Alexandra Neighbourhood House’s community programs. For information on programs/services at Camp Alexandra, call 604-535-0015 or go to www.alexhouse.net

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