Brighton initiative celebrates five years of ‘blitzing’ its community

COMMUNITY Blitz, a highly successful Brighton municipality partnership that provides local gardening and maintenance services as well as giving participants important life skills and employment, has celebrated its fifth birthday.

The initiative, a collaboration of local businesses, community groups and people from around the community, provides participants with important training and employment opportunities.

Traycee Di Virgilio, Michael Christie and Lisa Rudd.

It also offers people the chance to get involved in projects that help the less fortunate in the community and beautify the Brighton municipality while at the same time giving participants a great sense of self-worth.

Community Blitz project manager Dennis Crispin said the initiative had been hugely successful in the community since its establishment in 2011.

“While it was initially established to deliver local garden repair and maintenance services by the community for the community, it has had the added and very significant benefit of providing training and support for many of the participants who have gained important life skills, qualifications and employment,” he said.

“Community Blitz creates opportunities for job-seekers, volunteers and community members to be involved with projects that provide skill and training opportunities while making a huge difference to the community.

“In just five years, I believe Community Blitz has already developed the self-worth of our participants by exposing them to new opportunities and improving their job and life skills.

“For example, some of the projects they have been involved with are in generally beautifying the municipality as well as helping those less fortunate in our community by ‘blitzing’ their gardens.

“It really is a fantastic project and gives everyone involved a wonderful boost seeing how they are helping others.

“Our Blitz team members are also helping themselves by improving their own knowledge and training and, importantly, employability.

“One recent major project that our Blitz team was involved with was in assisting in theestablishment of the gardens for the newly built Remembrance Park in Pontville.

“Remembrance Park is now the venue of Brighton’s annual Anzac Day commemoration ceremony. This year is the second year the park has been used by the community for the formal ceremony as well as a fun sports day and barbecue following the official Anzac commemoration.

“Community Blitz played an important role in getting the park beautification program to where it is today and we are indeed proud of the team’s efforts for this wonderful new community venue.”

Community Blitz has also been involved in helping develop the MONA 24 Carrot Gardens in local primary schools.

“In 2014, the Blitz team and other community volunteers dug huge garden beds and prepared pathways in the front of Gagebrook and Herdsman’s Cove Primary Schools,” Mr Crispin said.

“These gardens are now producing fresh vegetables for school cooking programs and for give-away to the school community.

“The students are learning new skills in gardening and cooking and gaining an appreciation of fresh locally produced food.

“A number of My Vegi Patch garden beds have been installed at people’s homes around Bridgewater, Gagebrook and Herdsman’s Cove.

“Last year a number of our participants also successfully completed the Gardening Skills for Work and Life entry level course into the horticultural industry. This is an entry level course into the horticultural industry and covers topics like reading a plan, using measurements, choosing tools and materials, building a garden, reading and follow safety procedures, and much more.

“Their involvement in the Community Blitz initiative provided the impetus for further learning.” The participants went on to complete the full Certificate I in Horticulture.

At the same time, another closely aligned project, the Waterbridge Food Co-op,  is celebrating its Pantry’s first birthday.

The Waterbridge Food Co-op Project encompasses two community production gardens, two cooking programs and a Pantry which sells fresh, local produce at the Gagebrook Community Centre.

Waterbridge is a successful collaboration between the Jordan River Service Inc, Colony 47, SecondBite, Centacare Evolve Housing and Workskills Inc; and also works closely with Community Blitz, the MONA 24 Carrotsproject,  the Heart Foundation and Urban Farming Tasmania.

Its goal  is increasing the community’s access to healthy and affordable food and has invested heavily in the community garden at the Bridgewater Community Centre. It has also established a smaller, very successful community garden at the Gagebrook Community Centre. Their two cooking programs cater for beginner cooks through to the ‘Fast Foodies’ who cook for the Waterbridge Pantry.  The Pantry is leading the way in community food sourcing by selling their own garden produce, sourcing from local suppliers and by using excess Pantry stock to make nutritious frozen meals, chutneys, relishes and jams, all at very low prices. Waterbridge also facilitates food education and training for their small army of community volunteers.

Mr Crispin said the two projects demonstrated the importance of community groups working together and what could be achieved for the benefit of the broader community.

“We are delighted with the success of Community Blitz and Waterbridge. We celebrate their achievements to date and we look forward to a continuing positive future helping our community continue to grow and prosper.”

Community Blitz and Waterbridge are supported by Primary Health Tasmania under the Primary Health Networks Program – an Australian Government initiative.