2017-09-07 / Front Page

Congressman Kildee visits hoop house helping youth

BY TANYA TERRY
810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com


26 youth participate in the Mr. Gaines Garden PLUS Program, including 18 at Ebeneezer Ministries in Burton and four at the North End Soup Kitchen in Flint. 26 youth participate in the Mr. Gaines Garden PLUS Program, including 18 at Ebeneezer Ministries in Burton and four at the North End Soup Kitchen in Flint. BURTON — Congressman Dan Kildee was encouraged to look for more federal funding for a local gardening program, originally intended for at-risk youth, after his recent visit to the grounds used for the program. Kildee toured the hoop house and garden at Ebenezer Ministries on Center Road Aug. 30. There, the Catholic Charities Mr. Gaines Garden PLUS Program is held.

“The garden and the hoop house were really remarkable due to work of Mr. Gaines, the Catholic Charities and the kids in the program,” Kildee said. “The kids get to learn real life skills like gardening and cooking. Many of them have come been back year after year, and almost all of them were either in college or had concrete plans of attending college. This is evidently due to Mr. Gaines’ leadership in shaping a program that inspires hard work and success.”


Angel Mangham was one of the youth Congressman Dan Kildee met during his recent visit to a local hoop house, which hosts a garden program. 
Photos by Tanya Terry Angel Mangham was one of the youth Congressman Dan Kildee met during his recent visit to a local hoop house, which hosts a garden program. Photos by Tanya Terry Kildee said summer youth activities and afterschool programs are priorities for him. “These are all good kids,” Kildee said of the kids in the program. “Without afterschool programs, we don’t know what they would get involved in” he said. “Making sure they have a positive outlet for their energy is number one. I’m also interested in nutrition. We know this is a major concern in Flint, and fresh fruits and vegetables really get through lead exposure.”

The youth grow produce, including green peppers, several varieties of tomatoes, collard greens, banana peppers, chili peppers, corn and squash. For four hours a day, six days a week, they weed, water and maintain the gardens, as well as pick crops to sell.

“We sell the vegetables at The Farmer’s Market on Saturdays,” said Rawlan Lillard, III, who will be a senior this year and is participating in the program for his second year.

“We take some home and use it when we cook,” Lillard said. “I share mine with my family sometimes. It’s important we eat vegetables so we can get healthy and avoid diseases.”

The program is open to those ages 14-18, including 9th graders who have graduated out of the Teen Quest program sponsored by the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as those who have returned from previous years.

Greg Gaines, program manager for the program, said “at-risk” is just a term. “In our society, all kids are at-risk because our society is at-risk,” he said.

Gaines is the recipient of many awards, including the Roy E. Peterson Caring Adult Award from Priority Children, the University of Michigan Community Service Leadership Award, the Jeffrey Ursery Spirit Award, and the South Side Action Committee Community Service Award.

Gaines said the program is geared towards helping young people get a job, keep a job, work for a supervisor, develop job ethic and job responsibility, learn teamwork and learn how to handle customers.

Kildee said he was committed to helping the program get more federal funding after hearing firsthand from the kids that if there was expanded funding more youth would work there.

“It is clear to me that we should be expanding youth employment programs to provide more opportunity in our community,” Kildee said.

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