In the fall of 2020, Indiana University Bloomington undergraduates Kendrick Mernitz and Abigail LeDonne began a volunteer service opportunity with the program Let Us Learn, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve families in Southern Indiana by promoting food literacy and battling food insecurity. The organization encourages local food growth and education in urban environments, and the two connected with the project through IU’s Student Agile Response Team, an IU Corps group that pairs students with projects based on interest and skills.
Kendrick and Abigail were initially asked to conduct research and then help find the best location in New Albany, Indiana, for a network of local community gardens. Over many virtual meetings and brainstorming, the project shifted into a marketing and communications effort. The two were tasked with creating a flyer and advertisement inviting local, Southern Indiana-based companies to partner with Let Us Learn by offering their green spaces as garden hubs to encourage sustainable practices.
Kendrick and Abigail quickly adapted to the new process and research focus and ended up learning important skills. “Shouting out even the most random ideas may be super helpful in the brainstorming process,” Kendrick says. “People appreciate unique solutions.”
“With the skills I've learned from START, I was able to gain a better understanding of how to find and analyze research in an effective manner,” Abigail says.
The students were able to gain new skills, such as learning to be flexible and expanding their knowledge in research and creativity, and to better recognize the importance of a program such as Let Us Learn.
“My biggest takeaway from the project was how there are a lot of small things we often take for granted,” Abigail says. “While we often just go to the grocery store or a drive-thru to get food, Let Us Learn helps families in need by growing gardens. This is a great organization that is making a big difference in the lives of many families and children.”
The Founder of Let Us Learn, Gina Brown, says that she started the nonprofit in 2016 to help feed the children in Southern Indiana whose food sources are often exhausted, leaving families hungry and searching for meals to provide to their kids. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown shifted her focus from hands-on learning to planting more gardens and using Zoom classes to continue teaching children.
In the end, Kendrick and Abigail’s marketing efforts paid off: they found a company that accepted Let Us Learn and allowed them to begin their gardening mission to help feed and educate the community. They will be working alongside The Elderberry Co. in New Albany, and Gina has high hopes for educating the youth, planting gardens, and encouraging sustainability through the partnership.
IU Corps is a network of IU Bloomington students, campus stakeholders, and community partners whose collaborative work contributes to positive social change in local neighborhoods and around the world. IU’s Student Agile Response Team helps match community partners with the right students for their projects.