A greenhouse will boost the capability of Houston Link to Learning's main community garden. (Anqelique Houlihan photo)

Houston Link to Learning seeks COVID relief grant

District has established fund for community groups

Houston Link to Learning is going to have to wait until the new year to find out of a request made to the District of Houston for monies for its 2021 community garden program is successful.

The community organization wants $21,200 from the District, money that would come from the District’s community COVID-19 grant relief program.

The $21,210 would be used to support the community garden project which combines food security with teaching literacy and numeracy skills.

“Our community garden project has been a cornerstone program for Houston Link to Learning for many years,” executive director Marian Ellls outlined in her budget request considered by council at its Dec. 15 meeting.

“The garden is a great way to work on informal literacy and to teach and encourage vulnerable adults and families to grow and use their own produce.”

But it’s a difficult program to operate as potential donors often consider it to be an all-volunteer effort, Ells added.

“This garden is a vibrant literacy program where many learning opportunities are offered. The community garden, as a learning program, requires funding to operate.”

Ells noted that the COVID pandemic has also added to general operating costs.

“Our group numbers have to be much smaller, which means that we have to run a program multiple times to reach our previous numbers,” she wrote.

“The effects of COVID-19 on our mental health and well-being have yet to be realized. The great thing about the community garden is that because it is outdoors, we can run it even if we still have restrictive protocols. Community members are looking to get out and learn something new, many are struggling with food security issues and isolation.”

The garden maintains 42 raised beds and has a new greenhouse. A weekly garden to table program that teaches growing and cooking will supplement overall efforts.

The $21,200 wanted from the District amounts to under half of the $45,750 set out by Ells as the budget for the planned 2021 community garden season which would run from April to October.

Houston Link to Learning already has $10,400 secured from its community adult literacy program, $2,000 from the Dungate Community Forest for greenhouse supplies, $3,000 from its early years program and expects $9,100 from a federal summer jobs program.

The money allocated to Houston Link to Learning would come from $100,000 set aside by the District this fall to assist community groups affected by the pandemic. And that amount comes from a provincial grant of $1.066 million provided to the District to spend as it sees fit on COVID relief measures.

The Royal Canadian Legion was the first community group to receive a grant — $5,400 to help finance its community van program which provides rides and deliveries for veterans, seniors and low income residents.