Venice Williams began the new year with big plans for Alice’s Garden, including new positions, program expansion and incorporation as a separate nonprofit.
“Over the past three years the programs and garden have evolved into a gem for this Milwaukee neighborhood,” said Williams, program coordinator for the garden. “I don’t think we could have anticipated the growth and participation from the community that we’ve had over the past two growing seasons.”
Many community gardeners have taken on leadership roles as a result of participating in Alice’s Garden’s programs. Naryan Leazar, community gardener and Milwaukee chapter president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), will be Alice’s Garden Program Committee chair. New staff members are gardener Cheri Johnson, who started during the summer as the part-time Minister-in-Residence, and former intern Fatuma Emma, who will become the full-time urban farm manager in the spring.
Emma will continue with the responsibilities that she had as an intern – assisting gardeners – in addition to preparing farmers who want to sell produce at Fondy Farmers Market. Johnson will “guide people and nurture the growth of their spirits as they nurture their gardens,” Williams said.
“There’s something about working with the hands that opens you up to work on your life,” she added.
By Feb. 1, Williams plans to launch a website. Presently the garden has a web page on the Center for Resilient Cities’ website. Alice’s Garden expects to be an incorporated nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status this spring.
In preparation for becoming a separate nonprofit, Williams is seeking people interested in serving on the Alice’s Garden board of directors.
Williams hopes that within the next five years, another community member passionate about Alice’s Garden will take over.
“We’re now at 33 neighborhoods represented for the 2011 growing season,” said Williams. “Some of the people for the 2012 season will garden in their own backyards, and come for programming.”
With more than a dozen programs, and about 100 families and organizations that garden at Alice’s Garden, the community has made it “a place of our own,” according to Williams.
Now, what’s most important is sustainability, she said.
“(Alice’s Garden) is just another way for the community to reclaim the promise and hope of The Great Migration that brought so many African Americans to this city to build stronger families and communities, and enjoy the gifts of life,” Williams added.