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River Heights seeks Seeds of Change Grant

This spring, the River Heights tenants would like to expand Lucky Gardens by building 10 additional concrete raised beds, pictured last year. (Nicole Vik/Enterprise)

The tenants at River Heights Apartments on Riverside Avenue are hoping to expand Lucky Gardens, which they built last year, and invite the community to participate with them.

"Gardening promotes good nutrition, it's good for you physically and mentally and it improves social interaction," Thomas Petschl, a member of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority said. "And a lot of the people we're trying to reach can't afford to be going to the store, we're trying to make them self sufficient."

Currently, the garden has 10 raised beds and after constructing the concrete raised beds last year, they have generated interest in the garden and a need to grow.

The intent is to expand by creating at least 10 more raised beds for both the residents and members of the community to use. According to Petschl, they would also like to be able to build a rainwater retention system in order for the garden to operate on its own system.

"There's a lot of maintenance we need to do too," Barb Parks, president of the Resident Advisory Board said, adding that parts of the garden's fence need to be replaced.

In order to complete the list of projects they will need funds in place. They have already received donations from local organizations such as the Lions Club and the American Legion. In addition to the generosity they've received, the group submitted an application to the Seeds of Change Grant Program that was accepted to be considered for a possible $10,000 grant.

The Seeds of Change brand was founded in 1989 and now donate one percent of their net sales to fund the Seeds of Change Grant Program that has awarded $900,000 in grants to community-based gardening and farming programs.

In order to be considered for the grant, each applicant must first meet a set of criteria. The organization applying must be a private for-profit organization, a private non-profit 501(c)(3) organization or a public non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that focuses on at least one of the following areas: community-based farming or gardening, public school gardens, food and nutrition education, farming and agriculture education or sustainable farming.

They must also be based in the United States and primarily maintained in the U.S. and be linked to a specific town, township, watershed or county, and be able to engage their community for participation and support.

The River Heights Apartments are managed by the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The building is owned by the City of Park Rapids.

Now, the group is seeking support for Lucky Gardens from the Park Rapids community.

Each eligible application is posted online for the public to view and evaluate. The public is then invited to vote on the organization of their choosing.

The voting period will close on April 19, at 11:59 p.m. and the 50 applications that receive the most votes will be passed through to the next phase in the evaluation process.

A panel of judges made up of Seeds of Change farmers, brand leaders and strategic partners will evaluate the 50 applicants that received the most votes to select the 24 organizations that they consider to be in the best position to receive and use the grant.

First, the judges will evaluate whether the applicants meet the eligibility criteria and all other requirements. Next, for those that pass the first phase of review, the judges will evaluate each application based on the extent to which the organization provides food education, community impact, leadership in achieving results for the community and whether the applicants demonstrate a need for charitable funding.

Here's how individuals can vote:

• Visit www.seedsofchangegrant.com

• Click "Vote Now."

• Search for "Park Rapids, MN" and scroll down to find "Lucky Gardens."

• Click "Vote."

Each person may only vote one time per day and only one vote per IP address is counted. The final grant recipients will be announced May 8.

For more information on voting or donating to the community garden call Sharon Voyda at 732-4158.

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