July 6, 2018

Seed libraries are helping to cultivate healthy communities

Here are three stories about how giving has impacted communities across the country

Public libraries across the country are offering resources beyond books, like seeds. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images,

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Today, seed libraries sprout in urban Michigan, a dying teacher’s last request to help needy students is wonderfully fulfilled, and a 6-year-old’s lemonade stand raises thousands to help immigrant children separated from their parents. Tell us who’s innovating in your hometown. Email us at info@therenewalproject.com.

The seeding of healthy communities: Seed libraries are popular in rural areas but lately they’ve begun cropping up in urban areas, too. Grosse Pointe librarian Deborah Lynch was inspired to start a seed library in her own branch after visiting one in Munising, Michigan. She knew her local community already had 13 garden clubs and used that community as a base to begin building her own seed library at Grosse Pointe.

“For libraries to survive, they not only have to be the font of all information but also become community centers,” Lynch told Metromode. The seed library would serve as means of sharing healthy information about food while building a community around the care and harvesting of the seeds.

Seed libraries “loan” their seeds to local residents, who then typically harvest seeds from the locally grown crops and return them to help replenish the seed library.

Across town from Grosse Pointe, in Dearborn, another seed library was created at the Dearborn Public Library, which grew out of the Healthy Dearborn initiative. The goal is to help educate people on where their food comes from and to encourage healthy food choices.

“The people I’ve spoken with about this think it’s a great initiative for the community’s health. People are very interested in health topics, and it saves them some money,” Dearborn librarian Patty Podzikowski told Metromede.

Giving from the grave: Retired school teacher Tammy Waddell reached beyond the grave to continue to help elementary school students she looked after for 25 years of life. Waddell died of colon cancer on June 9, but her dying wish was that her funeral goers—in lieu of sending flowers—would bring backpacks full of school supplies for needy students. Her wish was generously fulfilled when 100 backpacks were delivered and set along the pews of the church in which the service was held.

Waddell’s cousin, Brad Johnson, posted an image of the backpacks on Twitter that quickly went viral writing that she was “a teacher to the end.”

Teachers will distribute the backpacks through a program called “Project Connect,” a local initiative of the Forsyth County school district in Georgia, which is an annual event that has teachers deliver the backpacks to their students’ homes.

“What made her special was that she truly loved and care for her students,” Johnson told NBC’s Today show. “As many said, she was ready to give a hug to a student in need, just like she was to give supplies to a student in need. She has inspired many people, including myself.” Johnson went on to say: “Her final lesson was to be of service to others. I would say her last lesson was well taught.”

Lemonade stand with a social cause: When Shannon Cofrin Gaggero told her 6-year-old son about the plight of immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border, he came up with the idea of starting a lemonade stand to help raise money for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). They set an ambitious goal to raise $1,000 and also started a companion “virtual lemonade stand” campaign on Facebook as well. To-date the Gaggero family has raised $13,000.

The Renewal Project

The Renewal Project is an initiative by Allstate that spotlights local innovation and celebrates community change-makers.
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