Stacey Harwood, one of our great volunteers has taken over as Volunteer Coordinator. Her passion and energy for Opal’s Farm is extraordinary. When Stacey first came out to the farm, she introduced herself and let me know right of the bat that she had no experience farming. It’s a couple of weeks later and she’s become quite the farmer! She’s organizing the volunteer day and getting busy. She wants to let everyone know that no experience is necessary – simply come, see, and enjoy!
Just a quick reminder that North Texas Giving Day Now is coming up Tuesday, May 5th. It’s a special North Texas Giving Day in conjunction with campaigns globally for Covid-19 relief. You can always donate via Facebook or our website, www.unityunlimited.org.
Thoughts From the Porch: I shared the porch with my lovely wife this morning. The sun was just rising though its efforts were thwarted by an overcast September sky. A southbound cold front and a northbound low-pressure system promise rain for the next couple of days. I’m enjoying the porch in advance of our son’s wedding tomorrow (we don’t have step-kids, Brandon). The rehearsal dinner is tonight and judging by the level of stress and anxiety of all involved, I’m sure everyone will be sleeping in Sunday morning. I’ll have some real quiet time then. As for now, the whispered conversation Margaret and I share is broken only by the squirrels, who started early, chasing each other through the trees in our front yard.
North Texas Giving Day is over, the wedding soon will be, and I can go on to other things I’ve been putting off due to time constraints. I watched the 10:00 o’clock news last night and the total one-day contributions for North Texas Giving Day were over $43,000,00.00 and counting. I can’t tell you how many local charities will be helped. It restores my oft-waning faith in human beings…
Astronomical Fall begins tomorrow. I’m so ready for it. It’s my favorite time of year. We have five Pecan trees and several other trees in our yard. As Fall moves forward and they prepare for Winter, they tend to make mowing a little difficult. Still, that can be remedied by blowing the fallen leaves into big piles that the grandkids (and Pops!) can jump into and crush into a fine mulch.
Fall brings out the kid in me, at least I think so. I only have fleeting glimpses of childhood. It’s not because I have middle-aged memory lapses. It’s always been that way. Others share about their childhood and I’m at a loss for mine. Ironically, I can remember most of the years I drank and drugged my way to the bottom. There’s something wrong with that picture…
Maybe that’s why I long to jump in a big pile of leaves. I’ve been given the opportunity to create new childhood memories. Jumping into the leaves isn’t really an adult thing. It requires letting go of some adult inhibitions. I keep hearing that one enters a second childhood when one gets older. If that’s true I hope I live a long while…
The Rabbi once told his disciples that “unless you return to square on and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the (spiritual) kingdom”. He went to say that life is about becoming “simple and elemental, like a child”. Sounds like good advice to me.
Your donation today will help us continue to sponsor several community events and activities including:
• Healing the Broken – Domestic Violence Forum
• Diabetes Awareness – Walking for Wellness & Expo
• Opal’s Urban Farm
• Juneteenth Community Celebration
We invite you to become a community partner or “urban farmer” with us. Together we can continue to build healthy, vibrant Fort Worth neighborhoods.
North Texas Giving Day offers a special opportunity to become a financial partner with Unity Unlimited as we work to better the world around us. GO to https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/unity-unlimited-inc. to make your secure donation.
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Juneteenth 150th Anniversary Committee
2119 Harrison Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76110
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Thoughts From the Porch: It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon here in Fort Worth. The days are getting shorter and it’s been dark when I venture onto the porch. A cool, calm resides in our little cul-de-sac. There aren’t many things better than seeing the light slowly creep across the yard until fills the morning and another new day awakes.
Please excuse the lateness of the hour. It was a very busy morning. Between doctor appointments and meetings there was little time at the desk today. However, I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that tomorrow, September 20th, is North Texas Giving Day. I know, I know; you’re shocked that I mention this again, right?
North Texas Giving Day is the perfect opportunity to make your donation stretch farther. You can find them at . And just in case you forgot about Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm I’m reposting (again) our North Texas Giving Day article. Thanks, and y’all have a great afternoon…
How Do You Eat an Elephant in the Desert?
The word ‘desert’ conjures up images of intensely hot, arid weather, sand dunes, and harsh conditions. We tend to imagine them to be far-off places like the Middle East or Africa. What if I told you that the desert was only a few blocks or a couple of miles away from your front door? While it may not be hot and covered with sand, it’s just as harsh as the Sahara or Death Valley. It’s a local food desert and it affects us all.
The USDA defines food deserts as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”
This occurs when there’s no local grocer or farmer’s market within one mile of an urban neighborhood. The only food available is at local convenience stores and “Quickie Marts” that carry only processed convenience foods that have little or no nutritional value and contribute to the obesity epidemic, diabetes, and heart disease.
The USDA Economic Research Service has mapped “census tracts” and defines them as a “census tract with a substantial share of residents who live in low‐income areas that have low levels of access to a grocery store or healthy, affordable food retail outlet.”
According to government data, Tarrant County alone has over forty census tracts designated as food deserts!
How does this affect you? First and foremost, this is a humanitarian issue – EVERYONE has the basic human right of access to food and health. Tarrant County is fortunate to experience strong economic growth and has for many years. As the population grows and more residents move to the suburbs, the grocery stores and farmer’s markets follow them, and often close the less-profitable stores left in low-income urban neighborhoods where food and hunger exist as well.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity “as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. … Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.”
In Tarrant County, one in four children (and one in three if they are African-American or Hispanic) go to bed hungry or face food insecurity. One does not have to live below the Federal Poverty Threshold of household income of $24,858 per year to experience food insecurity. Over 25% of households facing food insecurity live at or just above the poverty guidelines and fully 36% receive no federal or state benefits. (further information is available through the Tarrant Area Food Bank – https://tafb.org/ and Feeding America – www.feedingamerica.org).
Not only is this a humanitarian issue, but one of economic concern as well. The resulting health issues from lack of nutritious food create more emergency room visits and hospital care for often preventable illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. Low-income residents, often uninsured, are forced to utilize county hospitals such as John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Care for low-income and indigent clients places an additional burden on the county health system and is often borne by the entire community in a variety of social and economic ways. Longer wait times for healthcare and additional property taxes are just the tip of the iceberg…
The magnitude of the problem can be overwhelming, but there is a solution!
Addressing food issues is much like eating an elephant. It can only be done one bite at a time! Unity Unlimited, Inc. (a 501(c)(3) non-profit) has taken the first bite!
Unity Unlimited, Inc. was granted use of thirteen vacant acres in Fort Worth by the Trinity Regional Water District (TRWD) for the express purpose of creating an urban farm. Ms. Opal Lee, a longtime community and humanitarian activist in Fort Worth, is a founding member of Unity Unlimited, Inc. focused on helping people overcome racial and cultural division so that they can live productive lives in harmony with their fellow man. Talks with TRWD led to the dream of an urban farm providing farm-fresh, nutritious food for residents of the community. That dream has become reality.
The necessary permits are being issued and Unity Unlimited, Inc. will soon be breaking ground on Opal’s Farm. Located just east of downtown, the farm sits on rich, fertile bottom land near the Trinity River. Initially, five acres will be prepared for planting right away. The remaining eight acres will undergo soil preparation for additional crops. Only 100% organic methods will be utilized with special care given to the soil and the environment.
Following each growing season, produce will be distributed throughout area food deserts, helping restore health and vitality to local neighborhoods. A portion of the fruits and vegetables will be sold to local chefs, restaurateurs, and markets to support local farm-to-table needs and to help make the farm self-sustaining.
It’s not only about the food – that’s just the first step. Changing lives, educating, providing growth opportunities – that’s what agricultural intervention can do!
The farm will create jobs, provide job training, and bring a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-reliance to the local community. The 13 available acres of urban land will connect food production, processing and distribution in the same space. This is basically from farm to plate; which is a win-win for the residents, county, state, and country.
Opal’s Farm and North Texas Giving Day
Opal’s Farm invites you to become an “urban farmer”, to take the first bite out of the proverbial elephant. Whether as a volunteer, farm sponsor or financial partner, together we can take a bite out of surrounding food deserts and build healthy, vibrant Fort Worth neighborhoods.
Thursday, September 20th, 2018 is North Texas Giving Day. Communities Foundation of Texas’ North Texas Giving Day offers a special opportunity to become an “urban farmer” and a financial partner with Opal’s Farm. Make your secure donation at https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/unity-unlimited-inc. Throw on your overalls and become a part of Opal’s Farm today!
Thoughts From the Porch: And a very good morning to you all!
I haven’t posted much the last week or so. North Texas Giving Day is Thursday, September 20th, and preparations have taken time away from the porch. This is an extremely important day for Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm. We meet with the Tarrant Regional Water District next Tuesday to finalize plans for breaking ground. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am! I hope you will each consider helping Opal’s Farm on North Texas Giving Day! Your gift can go a long way toward transforming lives. Go to www. https://northtexasgivingday.org/unity-unlimited-inc to be an “urban farmer” at Opal’s Farm.
I took a break this morning to spend some time on the Porch with my lovely wife. In addition to the excitement building around Opal’s Farm, we are preparing for our son Brandon’s wedding this weekend. We are blessed to have the addition of his fiancé, Amanda, to our family. She’s a beautiful young lady, both inside and out.
The blessings of family and friends are not lost to me. My single regret is that I often get so busy with all the goings on in my life that I fail to nurture those relationships with a simple phone call or pause to meet at the local coffee shop. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I received a phone call from my friend David on Saturday. I’ve thought of him a lot over the last couple of months, but I never seem to stop and call to check in. I was so happy to hear from him. It gave me pause to think of the people I love.
David was one of the reasons I began this blog. There were business reasons, of course, but the idea for “Thoughts From the Porch” came about while my dear friend was battling cancer. I thought a great deal about the people who have made my life what it is. Maybe I could share my feelings about them, about grace, and about gratitude. The three are intrinsically linked and have made me the man I am becoming (I definitely haven’t arrived yet…).
I am pleased to report that David is clear of his cancer. I already knew that from various social media posts, but David wanted me to hear it ‘from the horse’s mouth’ when he called Saturday. We talked for a long time and caught up on the goings on in our lives. When the time came for goodbyes, we decided to meet for coffee later in the week. He said something during our conversation that has stayed with me. It was something to the effect that we needed some “face time” to sit down together instead of talking on the phone.
I’ve thought long and hard about “face time”. It’s not just David I’ve been missing it with. It happens with many of the people in my life. I look up from my busy schedule and two, three months or more have gone by without stopping to spend time with the people important to me.
When David first received his diagnosis, there were many unknowns. I spent time with my friend because the thought of losing him was difficult and I wanted to be there for him and his wife. I would drop everything to be there when he needed me. As his treatment progressed and the prognosis was better, I quit visiting and calling as often. The calls became farther apart until it had been a couple of months since we had spoken. As is often the case, I draw near in times of crisis. Once the crisis begins to fade, so do I.
I’m not unique in this, nor is it always a one-way street. Sometimes we just get busy. I get it. Still, I was reminded once again of the truly important things in life: God, family, and friends. A few months ago, I was afraid my friend might not be here, and I don’t want it to be the motivating factor behind any of my relationships today. I don’t want to take them for granted…
I’ve experienced the loss of several good friends this past year. A couple were expected, and a couple were sudden. At their ‘celebrations of life’ or memorials (the word funeral is no longer in vogue), I’ve thought about all the things I wish I’d told them while they were here. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to leave things unsaid with the people that bless my life. I don’t want to stay stuck on the wheel of crisis, relief, forgetfulness, and regret…
Sitting here this morning, I find myself impatient to get this post published. Despite the important meetings on my schedule, I need to make some phone calls and find out when David and I can get together for coffee. Maybe we can take a walk on Opal’s Farm together…
(Today’s post is unedited. My ‘editor” is hard at work on another project today…)
It’s only partly cloudy out here on the porch this morning. It seems it’s rained or drizzled every day for the last week. I’m terribly grateful for the rain and the cold front that triggered it. We’ve had a hot, dry summer and I’m not sure we can afford another huge electric and water bill. The air conditioners been off for the past few days and there’s no need to water the garden. It’s greened up and grown immensely in just the last couple of weeks. It never ceases to amaze me what rain, versus watering, can do. I can water the garden regularly and, while it may keep it from dying, it does little to promote production. Yet, end a bit of rain and all the sudden new blossoms and tomatoes abound. There’s simply something special about God’s touch. Still, I need a break from the rain, at least long enough to dry out for a couple of days and plant the Fall produce.
That being said, I haven’t posted much this week, nor have I had a chance to. North Texas Giving Day is coming up next week (please visit them at https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/). It’s a huge day for local non-profits, especially for Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm. I’ll be posting links to each over the next couple of days. If you can help in any way, please let us know! Anyway, that’s what has limited my time on the porch this week and quite frankly, I’m glad.
My thoughts have been far too scattered to share this week. I’ve been grateful for a project to focus my efforts on. It’s been a relief from the dissonance between my ears. Some of you know what I mean. I offer a prayer of thanks for those of you that don’t. I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences this, but it sure feels like it. It’s beyond mere ‘writer’s block’. It’s far more devious. It creeps in and tells me that I don’t have anything to say, and if I did, nobody gives a rat’s ass anyway…
If the voices are loud enough for long enough, it begins to be a crisis of faith. Do I really believe what I say I believe? Am I doing ‘enough’? Am I stuck in willfulness and missing the point? Am I wasting my time on the unimportant? What was I thinking anyway?
There are times when no amount of faith, positive thinking, or intellectual knowledge of one’s worth to God, self, and others can hold self-doubt, worry, and sadness at bay. St. John of the Cross called it, “The dark night of the soul”: my friend Jim used to say, “in the meantime, it’s a mean time”. I used to think I was the only one who felt this way. Experience has shown the opposite to be true. Some people are simply better at hiding it than others.
I’d love to post only the good stuff, like gratitude, grace, and the awesomeness of the life I get to live today. All of those things are true mind you, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t tell you about the times I feel God’s absence, when things don’t go according to plan, and it feels like I’m not coping so well.
I’ve been blessed to walk through many a ‘dark night’, only to find an even brighter day. I know that “this too, shall pass”, because I’m still walking. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Just keep walking.
There are times though when I feel stuck. That’s probably why “Groundhog Day” is one of my favorite movies. I keep repeating the same old day, over and over and over, but redemption is right around the corner. One day you wake up, the calendar has changed, and the world looks brand new. That’s just the way it goes…
My friend and confidant, Jim, always told me that “it’ll get better Tuesday at 2:00”. He’d never tell me which Tuesday, or whether it was 2 two AM or 2 PM, but it would get better. Looking back over the last sixty years I can attest to the correctness of this statement. Sometimes I need to remind myself that today’s Saturday – Tuesday’s right around the corner…