Hoop-House Raising Celebrates Community Garden Funded by State Farm

From left, Pat Santoro, local State Farm Agent Lou Santoro, the State Farm Good Neigh Bear and local State Farm Office Manager Marcella Martinez hold a check for $96,250 to present to the Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) in support of an educational and outreach community garden in Los Alamos. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

By Greg Kendall

A small “barn-raising” was held on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the Los Alamos Cooperative Market, in conjunction with a national State Farm Youth Advisory Board grant award presentation.

Youth and adult volunteers were invited to assist with the construction and decoration of a small hoop house at the Co-op, which is a partnering satellite location for the funded community garden project.

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board awarded a $96,250 grant to the Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) in support of an educational and outreach community garden.

JJAB has contracted The Family YMCA to deliver the grant’s education and food-assistance objectives throughout the next year.

This is the second award by the State Farm Youth Advisory Board to the JJAB for their Los Alamos Youth Food Project (LAYFP.) The funding has provided starter money to mobilize middle and high school youth in support of sustainable healthy eating.

The State Farm Good Neigh Bear sands the new hoop-house at the Los Alamos Co-op Market, assisted by local youth. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

The hoop house will be used for winter planting and spring seedling starters. State Farm representatives presented a commemorative check to JJAB officials.

“State Farm supports service-learning because it integrates service to the community into classroom curriculum using a hands-on approach to mastering subject material while fostering civic responsibility,” said State Farm Agency Field Executive James Medina. 

Medina noted Local State Farm Agent Lou Santoro’s key role saying, “Thanks to Lou, because Lou is very active in the community here. Without his support and his pushing this sort of thing would not happen. I appreciate all the work that the young people do, not only leading, but also in doing the activities that really contribute to a community like this and all the adults that it takes to really make it work.  But Lou really plays a critical part in this. I’m very proud of you guys.”

Funding last year, supported the establishment of community partnerships including Los Alamos Public Schools, created curriculum, funded classroom activities, and assisted with the founding of a garden site at Los Alamos Middle School. This year’s award will further develop classroom and the community garden efforts. 
The official check presentation.  Left-to-right: State Farm Agency Field Executive James Medina, Judge Alan Kirk, Marcella Martinez, the State Farm Good Neigh Bear, Lou & Pat Santoro, Linda Daily, Roger Waterman, Emily McGay.  Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

“The Y is pleased to be the steward of this grant from State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board to our JJAB,” said Linda Daly, Los Alamos Family YMCA executive director. “This demonstrates a partnership of youth helping youth. The Y’s mission is to partner for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, so this aligns perfectly with our vision.”

Lou Santoro added, “The Youth Advisory Board is a prime example of State Farm’s commitment to education, our community and our youth. I could not be happier to see the work of our local youth and local nonprofits recognized and supported.” Santoro continued, “Let me tell you a little about this process, the money just doesn’t show up when we ask for it.  There are so many involved in the Y and the leadership of the Y and writing this grant. Seldom do you see a community get back-to-back grants.  We had over five hundred requests for money on a national level.  Because of the way the grant was written and the consistency of the work, sixty-eight communities were awarded this money and if this wasn’t the top grant at ninety six thousand, then it is in the top three. I want to thank all of you that showed up and the part that each one of you played and the added value that this is bringing to the youth, the community and the leaders. Maybe this can be a three-peat.”

Municipal Judge Alan Kirk, who is chairman of JJAB, said, “This is one of the bigger projects we’ve had in the last two years and we have so many groups involved, I think we are up to eight or nine groups that support this project and it has been phenomenal to watch.  I’d like to thank State Farm, the local office, the state and at the national level.  We realize we are in a unique situation with the second year of the project. It’s a great opportunity for us to work with our kids and teach our kids nutrition and how to feed themselves in the future so thank you very much.”

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board has granted over $24 million in grant money since its inception in 2006, empowering youth to implement service-learning in 397 communities. Additionally, applications are available for interested youth aged 17-20 to become Youth Advisory Board members.  More information can be found at http://www.statefarmyab.com/.

State Farm’s YAB is made up of 30 students, ages 17 to 20, from across the county and is charged with advising on State Farm’s service-learning activities. Anyone interested in learning more about the LAYFP may contact Sylvan Argo at the Y, 662-3100 or through email at sargo@laymca.org.

To learn more about the Youth Food Project click HERE.


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