Allen Neighborhood Center gets $10,000 boost from Consumers Energy

A long-time neighborhood center with projects in urban farming and education has received a first-time $10,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation to support the growth and expansion of current initiatives.
The Allen Neighborhood Center will apply the grant toward the Hunter Park GardenHouse—a project that has provided innovative urban gardening and farming education since 2008. The year-round greenhouse and surrounding acre of parkland provides a site for high quality workshops on every aspect of small lot gardening. A year-round Community Supported Agriculture project offers flexible payment options to low- to moderate-income neighbors interested in receiving a weekly box of fresh, local product grown in the neighborhood.
"Food access is an issue here," says Hunter Park GardenHouse Director Rita O'Brien of the southern East Side neighborhood. "We want to be able to provide healthy, low-cost food in an area where 25 percent of residents are at or below the federal poverty line."
The grant, says O'Brien, will help support the expansion and efficient operation of the GardenHouse project to grow more food. The grant will also assist with operations of the CSA and with various youth and community education programs focused on food.
The GardenHouse in Hunter Park is part of the Allen Neighborhood Center, with administrative and community spaces located at 1611 E. Kalamazoo Street. O'Brien says the Center hosts about 10 to 13 workshops a year on various food and gardening topics that are attended by about 400 to 500 people annually. The Center also services about 200 kids, 75 families, and engages with more than 500 volunteers each year.
The Consumers Energy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Consumers Energy, and provides funds for education, community, civic and cultural development, social services, the environment and emerging issues. O'Brien says everyone involved with the GardenHouse is excited about the grant and the capabilities it will bring. And with winter coming, she says she's excited, too, about being in and near the greenhouse.
"When it's sunny, it gets up to about 75 degrees," she says. "It's really nice to be inside around green growing things inside and to wear a T-shirt when it's snowing outside."
Source: Rita O'Brien, Associate Director, Allen Neighborhood Center
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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