An Empty Space
Next door to the Albany Victory Gardens were unsightly, deserted lots. There were homes on the land that were previously declared uninhabitable, so they sat empty, dangerous, and unbeneficial to the environment. Lion Gregory Sheldon envisioned a better use for this land. He partnered with Albany Victory Gardens, which purchased the land, demolished the homes and, along with local organizations and community members, Sheldon cleared the land of debris and invasive vegetation to start a community garden. Specifically, he wanted to grow blueberries.
Using a US$1,500 grant from a partnership between the Anthem Foundation and LCIF, the Albany & Troy Lions Club planted 200 blueberry bushes.
This garden became part of a larger community project, a place where the neighborhood now comes together to share gardening knowledge, grow food, and volunteer time, bridging social, economic, and diversity gaps. It is a vital part of the neighborhood, as it enables self-reliance and access to nutritious food in an underserved area.
But first, the land needed to be prepared for growing blueberries, so Sheldon enlisted volunteers to help local companies spread woodchips, mulch, and soil. Using a US$1,500 grant from a partnership between the Anthem Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), the Albany & Troy Lions Club—which is actively investing in community health equity, food sovereignty, and social justice—planted 200 blueberry bushes alongside Anthem volunteers and other community members.
Blueberries were the perfect fit for the gardens. They’re high in nutritional value and antioxidants. The bushes attract pollinators such as bees, which will increase the amount of blueberries and other produce harvested from the garden. The sandy loam soil is designed to absorb water, reducing storm water runoff by up to 100,000 gallons. At the same time, the sandy loam provides good drainage and will help purify the air, along with the plants.
All of this is on land that was once occupied by empty, uninhabitable houses.
Thanks to LCIF, the Anthem Foundation, Albany & Troy Lions Club, Lion Gregory Sheldon, and the incredible community volunteers, this neighborhood now has a beautiful orchard they can care for and enjoy for multiple generations. “All the kids that worked hard to develop this site will be able to share these blueberries with their kids. This is truly why we do what we do,” says Sheldon.
LCIF is the grant-making body empowering Lions to create greater impact in their communities and around the world. The vast majority of funding LCIF receives is from Lions. One hundred percent of every donation supports Lions service through LCIF grants and programs.
The environment is just one cause area supported by LCIF and Campaign 100: LCIF Empowering Service. With financial support from Lions and clubs worldwide, Campaign 100 is empowering Lions to increase service impact in vision, youth, disaster relief, and humanitarian efforts; fight the global epidemic of diabetes; and make important progress in the expanded cause areas of childhood cancer, hunger, and the environment.
Jamie Konigsfeld is the marketing content specialist at Lions Clubs International Foundation.