VEJ gains two new board members
Voices for Earth Justice welcomes Erma Leaphart and Vito Rosolino! As of June, these two highly qualified persons have accepted positions on Voices for Earth Justice’s board of directors.
“Voices for Earth Justice is all about people: connecting people to one another, to the earth, to the Creator,“ Rosolino reflected.
Rosolino has been with Ferndale Electric Company for over twelve years, serving as Project Manager. Having completed his LEED AP BD+C certification, Rosolino specializes as a Sustainability and Service Manager at Ferndale. Additionally, Rosolino has been integrally involved with the U.S. Green Building Council for years, and currently serves as a Market Leadership Advisory Board Member. This dense resume of environmental endeavors reflects the developed savvy that Rosolino brings to VEJ.
Leaphart, too, has a resume full of achievements in the environmental field. For the past four years, Leaphart has worked for the Michigan branch of The Sierra Club as the Conservation Associate Organizer of the Great Lakes Program. Holding a Master’s Degree in Public Administration-Health Care Administration, she possesses expertise and experience that will enrich our board of directors.
While sitting on a panel in 2017 for the Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit at Marygrove College, Leaphart declared, “Today, I am unabashedly an environmentalist. I am a proud mother of two. I am still a proud resident of The City of Detroit. Someone who embraces the notion that love reigns supreme.”
In a similar spirit to Leaphart’s thoughts on love, Rosolino responded to a question about what excites him about VEJ, “Humans are the stewards of this planet, and to have the opportunity to reach people with a positive message about life, love and light is an exciting thing.”
Rosolino and Leaphart bring years of experience, Earth enthusiasm, and passion for relationally connecting with people. During a time of growth and transition, Rosolino and Leaphart mark the continuation of VEJ’s efforts towards building an environment for flourishing.
Rosolino stated, “I have seen that Voices for Earth Justice’s mission, boiled down to the least words necessary, is to Love people. And I am excited to be part of that mission.”
Community Relations Director Julia Hall reflects on how food systems can be revolutionized with intentional community meals.
Pull up a chair to the table that holds food grown by the hands of those who are eating. Come to the table. Eat. Partake in the splendorous ritual of sharing a meal.
Eating does not start at our refrigerators, but instead consumption reaches into the depths of our food system and ecosystems.
The farm to table movement is a transformational concept, but I would like to push further. Can you imagine a revolutionized food system that flourishes from backyards to tables with individuals planting their own food, sharing with neighbors, and growing together as community to reconnect with Earth, food, and neighbors?
The power of communal meals lies in the physical, social, and spiritual nourishment of gathering around food. By engaging our communities in sustainable practices and collective learning, we can strengthen the resiliency of our neighborhoods, our families, our friends, and our spirits.
Garden Coordinator L’Oreal Hawkes-Williams has brought much to the table. Her demonstration garden design, featuring permaculture tactics and a diverse vegetable and herb collection, is revolutionary. Her work reminds us to not only to munch on delicious meals, but to mindfully consider and celebrate the story of how those vegetables landed on our plates.
Let us plant. Let us eat. Let us grow. Together.
Voices for Earth Justice’s Garden Coordinator, L’Oreal Hawkes-Williams, has been designing and installing a new permaculture feature in the VEJ gardens. With the help of volunteers, her vision and design are now finished with plants growing in the new garden bed.
Hawkes-Williams explains, "The term "permaculture" is a combination of the two words: permanent and agriculture. The the merging of the two words describes exactly what the main concept is!--utilizing more permanent forms of agriculture like planting regionally and designing closed-loop systems that can sustain our needs and future generations without depleting the Earth's resources."
Permaculture tactics provide a solution to unwanted biomass and yard waste. Utilizing these methods has the power to transform undesired materials into purposeful, nutrient-rich garden beds. Not only do these tactics provide an alternative to disposing of yard waste, but these practices also can be used to develop richer soil, extend the growing season, and reduce watering care.
The type of feature that has recently been implemented at VEJ is called a hugel bed. The construction of this feature began with the creation of a divet, a canal-like area, as a foundation for the vertical layering of biomass. After creating the foundation, Hawkes-Williams and volunteers layered logs, sticks, leaves, and compost. To finish the project, the the group added gardening fabric to keep the compost from eroding.
Last week Hawkes-Williams, neighborhood kids, and family members planted out the bed with vegetables, including lettuce, watermelons, onions, and garlic. Together, the many hands that participated in the creation of the hugel bed demonstrated the ability of humans to collectively care for Earth.
While permaculture embodies this practical wisdom of sustainable living, the practice also possesses a sacredness. It is the intentional, holistic observance of the world and Earth that draws forth a spiritual care for creation.
"When I think about permaculture, I think about sustainability and conscious ecosystems. By "conscious," I'm referring to intention and mindfulness," Hawkes-Williams states.
Hawkes-Williams' thoughts on intentionality align with the writings of a Dominican Sister: Carol Coston. In her book, Permaculture: Finding Our Own Vines and Fig Trees, Coston writes, "Permaculture's Earth-care ethic has special resonance with me because it embodies much of what I hold as spiritual truth--particularly its inherent call for us to live in consideration of the common good of all creation."
The permaculture component of the demonstration garden at Hope House provides an incredible example of how earth care practices--both physical and spiritual--can be implemented. Further, the hugel bed shows how gardening and creating good, rich soil is an accessible self-sufficiency practice.
Hawkes-Williams provides some suggestions for permaculture practices, "So what does that look like? Well, you could plant native fruit bushes and trees--things that will produce year after year. There is agro-forestry as well as earthworks. You also could recycle all organic materials by composting or building hugel beds. If you look up the term permaculture, you'll get many different answers, but they all revolve around the same concept."
Developing soil, composing garden beds, and growing fresh vegetables takes time, but is a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy healthy food, connect to the earth, and reflect on our presence in the world. Give permaculture a try!
Keep an eye out for a post about the implementation of compost-bin construction. The designs are drawn. The space is cleared. Soon we'll be making our own soil supplements.
During the week spanning from June 25 to 29, Voices for Earth Justice was humming with volunteers. At the end of the week, these volunteers had devoted a total of 587 hours of their time to VEJ. While we had large number helpful people from multiple different organizations, one program in particular, Young Neighbors In Action, spent the entire week at our site.
The group from YNIA, consisting of seven high school students and two adult chaperons, hailed from Dayton, Ohio, and brought much more than their hard-working hands to VEJ. They brought their spirits. Effusing energy into the structure, gardens, and atmosphere of VEJ, this group’s aura beamed with a light of kindness, generosity, and ingenuity. Together, they complimented each other’s strengths and laughed with gusto.
Shelia and Sonia, the fabulous chaperone duo, balanced the lightness of a fun time with the working spirit of doers. Their photo-shoot interjections brought a whimsy to the day, as well as much needed breaks between raking leaves, cleaning and sorting the Hope House, and painting.
A few students in the group became especially interested in the re-envisioning the front room of Hope House, which prior to their work functioned as a storage room. After clearing out the space, the group used donated paint, roller attachments, and door handles to give the space an inviting freshness. Further, they laid down alphabet-themed foam tiles provided by cofounder and board member Sister Janet Stankowski to create a clean, fun space.
Not only were these volunteers creative rock-stars, this group engaged and played with our frequent visitors: the neighborhood kids. While making God’s Eyes and splitting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, these volunteers took the time to listen, to be present, and to laugh with our neighbors. They brought a spirit of intentionality, openness, and fun to hot days of hard work.
After a long week of sweating and paint-splattering, Friday brought a day of finishing projects and reflection. On the last day, YNIA came to VEJ with the theme of “Love.” Inspired by Pope Francis’s message of radical love, they showed up with hearts overfloweth with this message ready to conclude their week.
The celebratory finale consisted of bubbles, ice cream, and reflections. Giggles of both volunteers and neighbors mingled in the air to create a magical moment filled with shimmering bubbles and chocolate-smeared smiles. Last minute photos were matched with goodbye hugs and thanks. As their vans drove away, carrying away some new, dear friends, their spirit stays with us at VEJ, inspiring our work. Their presence touched my heart, and for that I am thankful.