SALISBURY — Bell Tower Green was taken over by the crowd on Saturday to benefit a local nonprofit with its own green cause.
Earth Day Happy Roots Clock has been on hiatus for the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with activities reopening statewide and a new venue in downtown Salisbury, the signature fundraiser is back.
In the past, the event was a two-day event with camping options available at a local farm, but Happy Roots Executive Director Ashley Honbarrier said this is the first year the free event is being held downtown and she thinks this model has more opportunity. draw.
“We have regular people and people who just see it and walk,” said Honbarrier.
Nearly 60 sponsors with 60 booths and 20 bands filled the area between the main stage and a small stage featuring young artists.
About 50 volunteers attended the event and Honbarrier said the organization was looking for more.
He says in the past, gardening nonprofits have fetched about $4,000. This year’s target is $15,000. The final amount has not yet been totaled, but the money will help maintain the program and go to more schools throughout the year.
Nonprofits are volunteer organizations that create and teach gardening skills to local students. Officials are awaiting the outcome of an application for a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation that will provide funding to hire staff members.
The Henderson Independent School, the first school where the organization worked, had its own booth on site with shirts and products designed by students.
Henderson Principal Alexis Cowan said the school started using Happy Roots for the therapeutic benefits of gardening and said the partnership with the school’s greenhouse has been a strong partnership over the years.
Cowan credits school careers and technical education teachers for getting students involved in events at various levels from planning to marketing, design, and craft making.
Cowan says the partnership helps schools give students the practical ability to grow their own food and reap therapeutic benefits for the rest of their lives.
Senior Henderson Lamon’Te Lyerly said he has promoted his school and has also helped with culinary programs at other schools.
Lyerly says she helps in the greenhouse and the program has had a therapeutic impact on her. She says gardening has made her want to adopt healthier habits like drinking more water. Prior to joining the program, she had never tried fresh tomato sauce or processed vegetables that she grew herself.
Happy Roots has the help of a well-known gardener in several northern states as well. Tony Hillery travels from New York City to read stories on the small stage and is an occasional presenter. Hillery is the founder of the non-profit organization Harlem Grown.
“We are a youth development organization working in Harlem, New York, working with underserved children in underserved communities and using urban farming, hands-on education and mentoring as vehicles for change,” Hillery said.
She started volunteering at a school and saw the need in her own community firsthand, inspiring her to start Harlem Grown.
Hillery is featured on social media pages and has published a book. Hillery said Honbarrier used the book and he sees the work Happy Roots is doing as the beginning of what he started a decade ago.
Hillery learned about the program in Rowan County and contacted Honbarrier to offer her support in person. He said he supports other organizations with the aim of bringing extra attention to them.
“Local people were curious, they came out and I tried to get them to make a financial contribution to help the organization grow,” Hillery said.