Karl Parker may be the board president of the Frederick Douglass Community Association, but he is also the driving force behind creating an urban garden project in West Toledo.
The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority recently awarded the agency a $31,7000 neighborhood economic development grant. The funds will help the association with the development of two key parts of the project -- a roof-top solar array system and an urban garden.
Working to establish the Urban Center of Excellence for Sustainability and Renewable Energy as a community program, Mr. Parker said both initiatives will help "bridge the green divide that exists."
"Creating this, there's a variety of renewable energy technologies that we wanted to expose this population, this demographic to. Additionally, there's no really large grocery stores around and access to fresh fruit and vegetables is not really abundant," he said.
Mr. Parker said the association created an urban gardening fundamentals class, which is a four-part series that will teach students from 10 to 18 years old about developing a community garden. The class meets on Tuesdays until mid-July.
But he knows teaching isn't enough and wanted to take the idea to the next level.
"We wanted to not only provide, but also to teach our population and demographic how to make it a business as well," he said.
Mr. Parker said empowerment is a big part of what he hopes will make the program benefit the lives of others.
He said the projects have the ability to "transform, renew relevancy and create an epicenter of hope and empowerment."
Teresa Smith, business development manager for the port authority, is helping Mr. Parker and the association with some of the planning aspects of the program.
"The physical garden piece will fully launch next year," she said, adding that the association will continue to offer the urban gardening fundamentals series and also a solar academy learning series, beyond just this summer alone.
But for now, Mr. Parker has a busy summer ahead of him.
"When you understand the overall vision, it's really about education and empowerment, to offer an alternative. It links cutting edge technologies and really connects the dots with the resources," he said.
-- Kelly McLendon