JACKSONVILLE, FLA., October 6, 2023 – Like many of Jacksonville’s urban core neighborhoods, North Riverside near McCoys Creek is a food desert. That is why Daily Manna Community Garden located at 426 Smith Street is so important, and why Groundwork Jacksonville, Avant Construction Group and Southern Shores Fence and Rail are donating their time, materials and resources to improve it.
Each quarter, Avant Construction Group selects a Jacksonville-based nonprofit organization for its Community Give-Back program. Support may be a donation of time, funds, materials, or a combination thereof. Avant chose Groundwork Jacksonville as their quarter four recipient.
“When Gloria McNair, from Groundwork Jacksonville suggested helping the North Riverside Community through the community garden, we thought it was a great cause,” said Ellen Cottrill, communication and HR Manager for Avant Construction Group. ”We are proud to be part of a project that not only brings the community together but also helps to educate residents about gardening and provides much needed fresh produce to a food desert.”
The Community Garden is a program of Daily Manna Serving Center, a nonprofit that distributes food and mobilizes resources to fight poverty and end hunger. The garden provides an opportunity for residents to get their hands dirty and learn about urban farming, while also being a source for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Through its work with the North Riverside CDC, Groundwork supports the garden by securing grant funding to help purchase materials and supplies as well as providing a stipend for the garden manager Jerby Hollomon. In addition, Groundwork’s CREST Stewards, (Community Restoration Environmental Stewardship Training) volunteer in the garden each month.
“We discussed several options for giving, but Daily Manna’s number one priority was a 200-linear-foot fence to wrap around the property,” said Cottrill. “We reached out to some of our vendors to see if they wanted to get involved and Matt Graziano was eager to help.”
“We are honored to partner with Avant Construction and get involved in this important project. As a new, local business, Southern Shores Fence & Rail appreciates the opportunity to help bring people together and make a difference in our community.”
Bishop Gerald Dinkins, the founder and CEO of Daily Manna Serving Center says that support like this means a great deal to the neighborhood, especially its seniors and children. “We are so thankful to Avant, Southern Shores and Groundwork for their support.” Said Bishop Dinkins. “This is more than a fence. It is one more step in making the community garden a place where the entire neighborhood can gather, work, learn and fellowship.” He added that the daycare centers down the street bring their kids to the garden. “We hope they will spend even more time at the garden now that the children can run around more freely without the worry of car traffic.”
What’s next for the community garden? Dinkins says they plan to add a few higher beds so that seniors can more easily garden, and a gazebo for neighbors to sit, relax and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their collective labor.