Grant benefits Suffolk gardeners, riders and citizenry

Published 5:50 pm Saturday, July 28, 2018

Healthy Suffolk’s efforts to get citizens green and lean got a boost this week thanks to the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.

Suffolk’s local non-profit received a two-year, $29,000 grant from the foundation to promote healthy eating and active living in the city, Healthy Suffolk’s Communications and Outreach Manager Daniel Harrell said in a Thursday phone interview.

Healthy Suffolk has worked to advance wellness and livability for more than 16 years, including garden programs and various active living initiatives that are dependent on donations and grant money.

Email newsletter signup

“We’re trying to do good in the community, but we have to pursue funding opportunities to continue our work,” Harrell said. “Grants like these are critical to be able to do community initiatives.”

Two new gardens will be supported through the VFHY grant as part of the citywide Healthy Suffolk Digs community garden effort. The first garden was built on May 29 behind the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront and is used by both cooking staff at the hotel and children that will be within walking distance at the new ForKids Center for Children and Families on West Constance Road.

The second garden site is at the East Suffolk Recreation Center, where a free, hands-on gardening workshop will take place on Aug. 18 with hourly seminars on topics such as getting started in gardening, cooking from your garden, pest control and more, with expenses covered by the grant.

“It’s just really great to have some funding to be able to do those things,” Garden Coordinator Shelley Barlow said in a phone interview.

The grant also allows Healthy Suffolk to push its Healthy Suffolk Bikes initiative, part of which is getting people either back on bikes or on their first set of tires.

Harrell explained that previous grants allowed the nonprofit to work with local car clubs and other organizations for bike-building events in which children — generally ages 7 to 11 — get their very own, custom-fit bikes built right in front of them.

Plans are in motion for Healthy Suffolk to partner with the Suffolk Boys and Girls Club, the Salvation Army and other organizations to arrange a bike build this August. Harrell said they’re also seeking bike helmet and lock donations for the children.

More events are being considered that will feature family riding, safety lessons and repair stations for people that are trying to ride again after their bikes were left to gather dust.

“Maybe you’ve got that bike that’s been sitting in your garage in need of repair, or maybe you’re just trying to get the family out of the house,” Harrell said.

The Healthy Suffolk Bikes committee will work to make Suffolk a more “bike friendly” city with more bike racks for people that want to ride downtown and in other populated areas, and bike repair stations on more paths, just like the Suffolk Seaboard Coastline Trail.

Harrell said the goal is to make it easier for young children to become lifelong riders and citizens to exercise while experiencing what Suffolk has to offer.

“It’s a way of getting out and seeing this community,” he said. “It’s one of the most beautiful cities in all of Hampton Roads, and the way to get out and see that beautiful city is on a bicycle.”