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La Porte’s Pax Center set for growth

May 27, 2019

La PORTE — The Pax Center will be growing even more downtown, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Flagstar Foundation.

The grant presentation was held at the La Porte branch of Flagstar Bank on Wednesday afternoon. The La Porte location is one of 52 branches Flagstar purchased from Wells Fargo last year.

After its December opening, the bank was given the opportunity to award a $5,000 grant to a local non-profit organization. The Flagstar Foundation will be awarding $5,000 grants to non-profits in each of their 52 new communities, 33 of which are located in Indiana.

The Flagstar staff nominated local non-profits which they deemed worthy of the grant. It was a race between three contenders for the La Porte branch’s grant money. The voting was between the La Porte County Habitat for Humanity, the Youth Services Bureau of La Porte County and the Pax Center.

Voting was conducted both online and in person at the Flagstar office, putting the fate of the donation money in the hands of the community. The public was eligible to cast their votes from April 4 through April 25. In the end, the Pax Center curried the most favor from the community, earning the organization the $5,000 grant.

“It’s been a lot of fun for us to hold the competition for the winners,” said Cindy Prestin, branch manager of the La Porte Flagstar Bank. “It gave us a new way to connect to our communities.”

Pastor Nate Loucks of the Pax Center explained how the organization is planning to use the money.

“We plan on investing that money into our garden projects between the Jackson Street Community Garden and the Brighton Street Green Space as we continue to build more gardens in the downtown area,” Loucks said. “One of our values is to get out of the calorie-counting non-profit business, to put better food out like fruits and vegetables.”

The community gardens produce fruits and vegetables for the Pax Center’s food pantry. By growing fresh produce, the Pax Center is able to provide better quality food for those in need than that of a traditional pantry which often provides recipients with carb and calorie heavy ingredients to take home.

With the additional funds from the grant, the planned garden spaces will hopefully thrive and quickly become urban orchards that will produce fresh fruits and vegetables in a place where outdoor gardens are scarce. Both the Jackson Street Community Garden and the Brighton Street Green Space are located in a part of the city that is a food desert, making it difficult for many to find decent and affordable produce. The downtown gardens will help to mitigate local hunger and improve the quality of food available in the community.

Each garden box is free to use, and can produce anywhere from $450 to $700 worth of free produce to the individual or family tending it.

“When you put all of that together, between both gardens we have $75,000 to $100,000 worth of free produce going back into the community every season that wasn’t there before,” Loucks said. “All we really had to do was build the infrastructure for it, and it perpetuates itself.”

Loucks went into detail about each space.

“We are in the building stage at Brighton. Jackson Street is already planted. It filled up very quickly with people wanting to grow,” said Loucks. “At Brighton we are building the gardens — the green space, it’s all outdoor work. Because of the unprecedented amount of rain and gloominess we have had this spring, we have just not been able to much construction out there. We are at least a month behind getting things done there.”

A portion of the $5,000 grant will be utilized in both garden spaces in the coming growing season.

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