A greenhouse and food production project through AVENS: A Community for Seniors will benefit from $25,000 in federal funding announced Wednesday by NWT MP Michael McLeod.
The Yellowknife-based seniors housing complex plans to host workshops on composting and gardening. The aim of these initiatives is to promote social inclusion among senior citizens and to provide a means where older people can age in a healthy way and be involved in volunteering and mentoring through food growth.
AVENS has received positive responses from various organizations since breaking ground in July 2019 on a 32-by-24 foot greenhouse with 26 garden boxes, according to Daryl Dolynny, CEO of AVENS. This past June, for example, the organization received $10,000 from 100 Men Who Give a Damn to equip the greenhouse with accessible flooring made out of recycled and repurposed tire rubber.
“Our successful Growing Green with Seniors project with the help of the (federal) New Horizons for Seniors Program has enabled AVENS to design-build a new commercial greenhouse for our seniors’ campus,” Dolynny said. “Finding solutions for food security, dealing with social isolation and encouraging social inclusion were the hallmarks of this project’s success, thus fulfilling our vision of a safe and caring community for life.”
Other supporters have included the law office Dragon Toner, who provided funding, and St. Patrick School with garden box construction. Still others have come through composting, garden building and growing advice from knowledgeable groups like Ecology North and local growers such as France Benoit and Arctic Farmer staff.
Dolynny said the new federal money is also likely to go toward structural improvements for a fully functioning commercial greenhouse including potential for solar panels for lighting and heat as well as improved, automated airflow.
Along with the greenhouse, the creation of an AVENS Growing Cooperative (AGCO) provides seniors a plot of land at no charge to produce food as a social exercise and for the benefit of the facility.
“So with this greenhouse we have been able to deal with social isolation challenges, which is getting out and mingling with each other and just being social inclusive,” Dolynny said. “But, on top of that, food security is a big issue around the North no matter if you are in Yellowknife or any other community. Getting fresh vegetables and herbs at reasonable prices can be difficult and a greenhouse allows us to harvest our own.”
Dolynny said it’s routine that the manor provides up to 200 meals for residents and that growing food can offset costs.
“If we are able to grow surplus food, we can foresee attending the (Yellowknife) farmers market where we can sell and reinvest back into our cooperative,” he said. “We think it is a very sustainable model.”
AVENS has been active in fundraising in other areas. On Sept. 14, the organization issued a news release announcing its campaign effort to replace its 22-year old, 12-person shuttle bus.
“Having the ability for all seniors to move around Yellowknife is a vital component in dealing with social isolation and accessibility,” states the release. “Ensuring access to essential services like medical appointments, or staying connected with family and businesses and remaining engaged within their community by attending events and supporting cultural activities are necessities in life.”
Dolynny said the organization is aiming to raise $125,000 to replace the old bus because it has been having problems with hydraulics. He said the organization was able to take senior residents on a trip to the Yellowknife River about two weeks ago after they were isolated for months in the long-term care facility due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“For you or I, it might not be a big deal, but for seniors, after five or six months of not being able to leave to go anywhere the excitement on everyone’s faces was there and it was phenomenal,” he said. “All based on a simple campfire, a wiener roast and coffee and bannock for a couple of hours.”
Other NWT funding recipients
Several NWT seniors-related organizations and projects also received federal funding earlier this week. They include: Ayoni Keh Land Corporation ($25,000); Chief Julius School ($17,750); City of Yellowknife ($14,402); Dene Nation ($25,000); Enterprise Senior Society ($17,500); Family Support Centre ($21,866); Inuvialuit Regional Corporation ($14,000); Inuvik Native Band ($25,000); K’asho Got’ine Housing Society ($24,000); Kátl’odeeche Ohn Dah’ ($25,000); La Fédération franco-ténoise ($17,250); N.W.T. Community Services Corporation ($11,580); Pehdzeh Ki First Nation ($7,066); Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre ($25,000); Tetlit Gwich’in Council ($25,000); Tlicho Leagia Ts’iili Ko ($25,000); Tuktoyaktuk Elders Committee (TEC) ($25,000); Uncle Gabe’s Friendship Centre ($25,000); Yellowknives Dene First Nation ($25,000); Fort Providence Hand Game Committee ($5,000); Incorporated Hamlet of Tulita ($3,333); and Hay River Committee for Persons with Disabilities ($5,000).