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Big Impact Despite a Small Size: Leveraging Community Partnerships to Achieve Better Results at Urban Abundance

09 Mar 2020, by Admin in Partnerships
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Community Partnerships

Urban Abundance is still a small, very grassroots non-profit; in 2018-2019, VISTA was the only paid staff. As such, the BOD and staff maintain and leverage healthy community relations that support the organization’s work.

Being such a small organization, Urban Abundance is fortunate to have several community partners that aid the non-profit in accomplishing the work they want to do for the community throughout the year. This takes different forms depending on the season:

Winter/spring: Without a fully fleshed out tool inventory, Urban Abundance borrows tools from Clark County Parks and Urban Forestry, and sometimes enlists the support of several key staff members, to host maintenance events in orchards in the off-season. These maintenance events typically take the form of winter/spring pruning workshops. City of Vancouver Urban Forestry will often lend their pruning tools, and VISTA also borrows pruning tools from Clark County Parks when Urban Forestry staff is not available for support. To host these workshops, the VISTA attempts to learn as much as possible about fruit tree pruning and care so that they may be useful teachers of this knowledge to event attendees. Alternatively, the VISTA can enlist the support of key Urban Abundance volunteers, several of whom have developed robust knowledge of fruit tree/orchard care and are more than willing to help share in that knowledge.

Maintenance in the orchards can also take the form of general weeding or making sure that invasive blackberry vines aren’t growing into the orchards. For these less tool-intensive work parties, Urban Abundance has plenty of gloves, hand pruners, and wheelbarrows to aid in the work, but does still call on various community partnerships to send groups of volunteers to help. These organizations that have good volunteers resources include, but aren’t limited to, Boy Scout troops in the area, credit unions, National Honor Society Clubs from several local high schools, Clark County’s Juvenile Court Restorative Community Service program, and more.

Summer: During summer months, there isn’t as much maintenance work to be done in the community orchards, and Urban Abundance’s focus becomes preparing for harvest season and promoting Pick-a-Pear-a-thon, for which community partnerships take on a different form and often are excited to participate in helping fundraise. In 2019, a local restaurant/pub offered to host a kickoff party for Pick-a-Pear-a-thon, from which they donated all the proceeds to the organization. This party was also supported by local farmers, who donated produce for a special menu at the event, and other local businesses who donated raffle prizes. In all, events like this work well for generating community excitement for harvest season, rallying volunteers, and spreading the word about what the organization is up to that year.

Fall (harvest season): Throughout harvest season (July-October), Urban Abundance gets support from the same organizations who also send out groups of volunteers during the off season, as well as a core volunteer in Felida who always loans his trailer for use and helps transport fruit during the harvest of Foley Community Orchard during Pick-a-Pear-a-thon. Developing relationships with AmeriCorps who work with the Clark County Food Bank has also been very helpful in the past to process fruit donations and sometimes help transport fruit on weekends or after hours on weekdays, but this fully depends on the AmeriCorps’ willingness to stay during their off time. VISTA can usually also use milk crates and banana boxes from the Clark County Food Bank to put the harvest in for transport, but in the times that the Food Bank’s AmeriCorps is unavailable to help transport in their truck, Urban Abundance’s VISTA must use their personal vehicle and/or enlist transport help from volunteers on site that day. Looking to the future, Urban Abundance hopes to secure a more consistent form of fruit transportation, whether that be getting a staff person trained to drive the CC Food Bank’s truck, or securing a vehicle donation from a local dealership.