By Jodi Belgard
NATCHEZ, Miss. — Humana’s volunteer network has teamed with a Natchez resident to help him achieve his goal of establishing one or more community gardens in his city.
“It’s all just kind of snowballed,” David Baity said.
He didn’t intend to create a community garden – and certainly not 10 community gardens, which is now his plan.
“I had read in the paper (the Natchez Democrat) about Humana’s initiative and what they’re doing in Natchez,” Baity said.
Humana has been working in Natchez’s Adams County for more than a year with the goal to create a healthier community. The Humana 2020 initiative intends to help Adams County become 20 percent healthier by 2020, and it places special focus on Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity – all of which are health issues that could be mitigated by easy access to fresh food.
Humana and its volunteer network have agreed to work with Baity to get his community gardens growing.
“One way our associates can help Humana achieve this goal is through volunteerism and community involvement,” Humana Associate Well-being Consultant Leslie Clements said. “And the Community Garden project provides an excellent opportunity for our associates to work with the people that live in the Natchez community on a project that will directly improve their health.”
Baity’s mission has been bolstered by meetings with Mayor Butch Brown, Humana representatives and locals who share the same ideals.
What was once one man’s search for a home garden is now a full-on community effort to give residents access to fresh, local produce.
Humana’s volunteer network will help Baity establish a non-profit organization, a venture about which he otherwise wouldn’t know much about.
“This project is giving our associates a chance to put their professional talents to use through skills-based volunteerism, a growing area of interest among Humana associates who want to share their expertise in the areas of strategic planning, clinical and legal knowledge, marketing, resource development, finance and more,” Clements said.
Baity said Natchez has some surplus land that should be considered for the gardens. A non-profit status would allow the city to donate those surplus parcels to Baity’s cause.
“The city does own property,” Brown said. “I would be very much in favor of (donating land). We have lots of abandoned properties – several places throughout the city – where we could build community gardens with the agreement that a non-profit maintains it. We have the ability to do that.”
Clements said working with Natchez residents to create a community garden aligns with Humana’s greater goal in Adams County.
“This not only enables Humana to demonstrate a holistic partnership of our time, talent, and treasure with the Natchez community, but it also gives our associates a chance to develop their own sense of purpose, an important and meaningful aspect of well-being,” Clements said.