Less than six months after receiving an AARP Community Challenge Grant of $15,000, Delaware Nation volunteers in Oklahoma created a community garden to help tribal members get better access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The proposal for garden beds, elevated so volunteers of all ages and abilities can help grow the produce, is one of 159 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands that AARP helped financed in 2019 with nearly $1.6 million in seed money. Applications for this year's quick-action grants, the fourth year of the program, have been extended to May 15 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I believe this [garden] will help seniors and children come together because you can both work on it together,” says Bruce Gonzales, a Delaware Nation committee member. “Your elders have the knowledge. They've been doing this."
Also part of the Delaware Nation's gardening project in Anadarko, Oklahoma, about 50 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, is education for tribal members on nutrition and healthier lifestyle choices, a grill and picnic tables to create a community gathering space around the garden, and use of the food in free breakfasts and lunches for the tribe's older members with few financial resources.
Among other grants awarded in 2019 were these with ties to Native Americans:
• In Alaska, the Cook Inlet Housing Authority developed a walking trail to connect housing to parks, shops and schools.
• In South Dakota, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corp. on the Pine Ridge Reservation built a park accessible to all ages and those with varying mobility.
Nonpolitical nonprofits and government entities are eligible to apply for the grants, which are intended to improve communities’ civic engagement, housing, public spaces, technology or transportation. Each project that receives a grant must complete the work by mid-December.
The 2020 winners are scheduled to be notified the week after Independence Day, a date also moved because of the epidemic.
Editor's note: This story, originally published March 2, 2020, was updated to reflect a new deadline and other dates for AARP's Community Challenge grants.