By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, June 9 — This Thursday members of the Page Alliance for Community Action will be planting seeds to make Page County a healthier community.
“We were unable to get the garden going as soon as we had wanted, but with help from the Town of Stanley we are getting the beds built and the garden planted,” PACA program director Megan Gordon said. “Their staff has been amazing.”
PACA volunteers had been meeting since January to plan the community garden and were scheduled to work with a group of JMU students in March. The students were going to help build the garden in Stanley as an alternative spring break project.
And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“The Town of Stanley stepped up big time to get the gardens going,” Gordon said.
Town staff finished the wooden boxes that will serve as planters last week, and fencing is going up this week at the site adjacent to the health clinic to keep out deer and other wildlife.
“It will sit on the side of the health center, as you go in, on the right side, where the dialysis patients go,” Gordon said. “It’s an area where those patients look out while they are taking dialysis, so it should be aesthetically pleasing for them to look out at a garden.”
PMH Family Medicine, at 235 Medical Drive in Stanley, also provides complete physicals, chronic disease management and treatment for minor emergencies, according to the Valley Health website.
In total, PACA received more than $12,000 from Valley Health through the three-year grant. A total of $9,280 of those funds went toward the purchase and installation of “vape detectors” at both high schools in the county.
Located in high-traffic bathrooms at both LHS and PCHS, the vape detectors installed in February at a cost of about $1,000 each can signal a change in air pressure, which could indicate that a student is vaping. The detectors then send a text message to administrators in the building.
Despite the fact that students were informed that the vapor detectors were being installed, some still tested the new technology.
“They were not up and running long before the [COVID-19] shutdown, but from the little data that we received, they were working as planned,” Gordon said. “We wanted students to know they were there as a deterrent to vaping on campus, which is the goal.
“The three-year grant through Valley Health identifies what is lacking through a community needs assessment,” Gordon continued, “and vaping was definitely identified as something that needs to be addressed, as well as the availability of healthy foods.”
The Valley Health grant helps PACA accomplish two of its goals — keeping our community healthy and drug free. Curbing substance abuse and misuse is a major component of PACA’s mission.
This Thursday at 9 a.m. — with social distancing measures in place — community members are welcome to come out to the family clinic in Stanley to help plant seeds. Gordon said the project’s goal is to grow 200 pounds of produce that will be available to the community.
“We may do weekend work days to promote the garden and then host other community events, but the goal of the garden is to make it a community garden,” Gordon said. “The goal is that what is produced there by the community will be consumed by the community.”
PACA also plans to offer educational classes at the clinic on such topics as canning, gardening, using fresh produce in meals and other healthy eating habits. Gordon stated that the non-profit group hopes to offer classes in person, but they will be working on plans to provide the classes by virtual means, if needed.
“We plan to work with different community agencies to get the food out to some of their agencies,” Gordon said. “The volunteers who come out and help tend the garden will also be encouraged to take some home.”