Bringing Hope to Suffolk’s youth

Published 9:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

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Hayden Blythe is helping Suffolk children learn and find their way with her organization, Hope for Suffolk.

Located at 3488 Godwin Blvd at Westminster Church, Blythe founded the nonprofit in 2010. It functions as an 8-month paid internship for teenagers on an organic farm to help them grow produce, build confidence, build their resume, make money, and make new friends.

During a May 15 interview showcasing the farm, Hope for Suffolk Director Hayden Blythe discussed the interns’ work and responsibilities.

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“We hire 40 to 50 interns each year, really it’s like 45 to 50, and each are assigned their own rows, but we train them…,” Blythe said. “So everybody has their own rows with their own specific crops that they are responsible for, so they’re out here doing everything from weeding to harvesting to packaging their produce.” 

Blythe says that their produce is sold to the public, which helps pay the interns for their work.

“So if anybody is interested in buying local organic produce grown by local youth, that’s what we do,” she said. 

Blythe says that the nonprofit has two components: paid work on the farm and classes focused on educating interns on training, life skills, mental health, interview skills, communication skills and more. Interns Ava Gonzales and Zakhia Bellamy talked about the opportunities they receive from HFS, with Gonzales noting their life skills.

“I also think another one would be building relationships. For myself, I’ve actually found what I wanted to do with my life, I want to be an environmental scientist,” Gonzales said. “So I really enjoy being out here.”

Among other benefits are scholarships for graduate interns to apply for. Blythe notes that Hope for Suffolk graduates can apply for the opportunity to receive a scholarship. She discusses the graduation process, noting that interns have to be part of the entire internship program.

“The internship lasts from March through the end of October, and they apply online. It’s a really easy application, the school systems put it out there, all that stuff. They apply online, we do an interview process, pretty easy,” Blythe said. “We’re trying to set people up for success. We’re not hiring the interns on a merit basis. We’re hiring them based on: do they have obstacles that they’re trying to overcome or goals that they’re trying to achieve that we can assist with?”

Blythe says that buying produce, volunteering, and making donations can help HFS support and invest in Suffolk youth. Volunteer Ed Fancher emphasized the importance of donating money or time to the program.

“It’s a great cause to begin with for sure, and anything they can offer to contribute, or to be part of the program or to help Hayden in any way possible,” Fancher said. “[We’re] trying to get the word out to as many people so they have an awareness of it. Not everybody is aware of it. I’d like [for it] to go beyond this area …” 

Likewise, Fancher gave high praise to Blythe for the work that she does for the kids.

“It is easy to see she is someone with a kind heart and a desire to help people in Suffolk of all ages,” Fancher said. “She is, indeed, the champion of Hope for Suffolk for kids and most certainly deserves credit for all her hard work and dedication in making Hope for Suffolk for teenagers a complete success.”

For more information and to support Hope for Suffolk, go to