Understanding GO

Our second day of service proved to be a whirlwind of activities that kept us constantly moving throughout the day. After breakfast and bundling up for the day (it’s been around 30 degrees out and snowing down here), we headed out for another day of service with DeWayne and Green Opportunities. Around 9 am, we headed back to DeWayne’s peace garden, where he gave us a brief overview of how GO got started. The organization, and the peace garden in particular, was started in response to the number of youth in the community who were dealing drugs on the streets. DeWayne wanted to provide these kids with a more positive job opportunity, so he set out with the process of developing GO to help provide training and job placement for underprivileged community members.

Our knowledge of GO was expanded by a tour of the WC Reid Center, a building with big plans related to GO which is currently under construction. The center was originally a school and later became a community center in the seventies as a result of desegregation. Because of a lack of funding for necessary renovations, there were plans to tear down this center. The combined efforts of GO and the Housing Authority saved the center, which is now being renovated. Once we were fitted with neon green hardhats, we were taken on a tour of the center and filled in on its intended use. GO plans to use this center, slated for completion in June 2014, as its new headquarters. Office space and program training rooms are the key features of this building, which will allow for GO to continue its mission of training community members for green jobs within the community.

As we walked through the center, I personally could envision what the completion of this building would provide for the organization. After hearing about the difficulties that GO has in finding space to train its members, I could understand why they needed this space in order to continue their mission. I felt that I connected with this construction site in a way I had struggled to in DeWayne’s peace garden. This building was a more tangible way for me to understand the goals and future of GO as an organization, while DeWayne’s garden was a more individualized, artistic method of connecting with individuals in the community.

Our tour ended with conversations with GO office staff Anthony, DeWayne, and Marilyn, where we learned about the differences between the various programs GO has to offer. They train members in weatherization of buildings, culinary arts, sustainable gardening/agriculture, and other programs as well. Some of this training comes with nationally recognized certifications, which can be used to find stable jobs for these GO members. We got to meet some of these GO members on our visit to the Pisgah View garden, a second community garden in the area. This space was more focused on vegetable gardening rather than the elaborate sculptures of DeWayne’s peace garden. It was really interesting and enlightening to meet community members undergoing the GO training we’d been learning about, and I really appreciated the chance to see the program in action.

After lunch (which we enjoyed back in DeWayne’s garden), our group split into various projects. Some members continued with spreading mulch throughout the garden, while others worked on creating and/or altering existing sculptures. I was part of the group that returned to the Pisgah View garden, where we assisted in laying down fresh soil for planting, harvesting some of the vegetables, and weeding the existing vegetable beds. As for the group members who stayed at DeWayne’s garden, they met another man named Jonathan Santo who came to visit the garden and played music for the group. He even gave us a CD of his music, which allowed for the other half of the group to experience his work.

Our reflection tonight allowed us to decompress from the multitude of experiences we shared today. To summarize all of the conversations we had would take all the space available on this blog! Overall, though, I feel that we got a better understanding of the community that benefits from GO and the peace garden. By learning about the situations the community faces and how they’re related to environmental sustainability, I feel that we were better able to understand GO’s mission and how they go about accomplishing it. I greatly enjoyed our service today and will be saddened to leave GO, as we are volunteering with another organization for the rest of our time in Asheville. I’m looking forward to the new set of experiences we’ll get to encounter in the next two days of our service.

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