by Jamie Konigsfeld January 1, 2020A Blueberry Orchard for GenerationsAn Empty SpaceNext door to the Albany Victory Gardens in Albany, New York, were unsightly, deserted lots. There were homes on the land that were previously declared uninhabitable, so they sat empty, dangerous, and unbeneficial to the environment. Lion Gregory Sheldon envisioned a better use for this land. He partnered with Albany Victory Gardens, which purchased the land, demolished the homes and, along with local organizations and community members, Sheldon cleared the land of debris and invasive vegetation to start a community garden. Specifically, he wanted to grow blueberries.This garden became part of a larger community project, a place where the neighborhood now comes together to share gardening knowledge, grow food, and volunteer time, bridging social, economic, and diversity gaps. It is a vital part of the neighborhood, as it enables self-reliance and access to nutritious food in an underserved area.But first, the land needed to be prepared for growing blueberries, so Sheldon enlisted volunteers to help local companies spread woodchips, mulch, and soil. Using a US$1,500 grant from a partnership between the Anthem Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), the Albany Troy Lions Club—which is actively investing in community health equity, food sovereignty, and social justice—planted 200 blueberry bushes alongside Anthem volunteers and other community members.Blueberry BenefitsBlueberries were the perfect fit for the gardens. They’re high in nutritional value and antioxidants. The bushes attract pollinators such as bees, which will increase the amount of blueberries and other produce harvested from the garden. The sandy loam soil is designed to absorb water, reducing storm water runoff by up to 100,000 gallons. At the same time, the sandy loam provides good drainage and will help purify the air, along with the plants.All of this is on land that was once occupied by empty, uninhabitable houses.Thanks to LCIF, the Anthem Foundation, Albany Troy Lions Club, Lion Gregory Sheldon, and the incredible community volunteers, this neighborhood now has a beautiful orchard they can care for and enjoy for multiple generations. “All the kids that worked hard to develop this site will be able to share these blueberries with their kids. This is truly why we do what we do,” says Sheldon.To learn more about how LCIF and Campaign 100 are protecting the environmental health of our global communities, generating long-term, positive ecological impact, visit lionsclubs.org/campaign100.