La PORTE — On the corner of Brighton and Pulaski, the old Lenick’s Dairy building stands out of time, glory long faded.
Once the building had worth, had relevance to the community and the neighborhood around it. It’s remembered fondly by the older generation, said State Street Community Church Pastor Nate Loucks, but to his own generation the building has never been more than a building slowly falling in on itself.
“This is a dilapidated, broken down building that, as you’d tour it, you’d see there is lots of evidence of former drug abuse and homelessness,” Loucks said. “We’ve heard from community members that it’s a blight to them. We believe just because something is broken down, doesn’t mean that it can’t have a purpose again.”
Lenick’s Dairy may be gone, but the space can, and will, have purpose once again. Creation through rebirth.
Together, with the Pax Center, State Street has announced the acquisition of the near acre and a half property on Brighton Street which will be used to create a new community green space, expanding the efforts the church had already begun previously with the creation and success of the Jackson Street Community Garden.
“While we won’t restore Lenick’s Dairy, we will restore that particular space to be something the community can be proud of again,” Loucks said.
Dubbed the Brighton Street Green Space, this new expansion in providing healthy food and education about nutrition to economically depressed areas of La Porte will offer a new community garden with all the same features as the Jackson Street garden, along with several new additions.
An Education Resource Center will be created out of renovating the old Lenick’s Dairy storefront, which will provide a place of learning with electric and plumbing. Loucks stated the space would be used for gardening programs, including teaching how to can and pickle your produce, and would also be available for use by other community health programs.
Outside of the renovated storefront, the rest of the large building will be demolished to create the outdoor green space which will host a kids garden, individual and family garden boxes and a larger U-Pick section than the Jackson Street garden can hold. Features unique to the Brighton Street location will be a small bog, an urban orchard and lots of community flower space with benches and picnic tables for those wishing to just enjoy the sights and smells.
“You’re teaching people how to garden so the space between the food they eat and their consumption becomes minimal because they actually see the food they eat, they’re connected better,” Loucks said of the benefit of providing nearby access to healthy food.
The church and the Pax Center have been searching for second garden location options since last year due to the success of the Jackson Street Community Garden. Hearing of the church’s good work in town, the former owners of the property offered the land up to State Street. Loucks knew the location was exactly what the church had been searching for, located in an area of need.
“This is actually located in a food desert,” Loucks said, adding the neighborhood around Brighton Street Green Space is one with little availability to nearby food, especially nutritional food.
“We’ll be able to off-set the accessibility of healthy, nutritious food in that community and provide hopefully a beautiful space as well,” he said.
This project will be the most ambitious one State Street has ever attempted, larger and more costly than past community creations.
“There was every reason to say no to it, but there was one really, really great reason to say yes; the community needs it,” Loucks said.
While both the Pax Center and the church will be putting significant funds toward the green space, community financial sponsorships will be sought with any business or individual wanting to contribute toward the renovation and rehabilitation asked to contact the Pax Center, State Street Community Church or email Loucks at firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteers who want to give their time will also be needed and appreciated, Loucks said, advising those wishing to assist in rehabilitating the space to reach out on Facebook or visit www.paxcenter.com where invitations will let people know how to be involved.
The goal is to begin demolition of the current facility this winter and then start on the renovation of the Education Resource Center. From start to finish, Loucks estimates the process will take two to three years to get everything done and the green space thriving.
“It’s an investment in community health projects. We believe those types of things — combating hunger, combating poverty, combating loneliness and increasing empathy, increasing compassion — are worth whatever financial investment we need to make into the community,” he said.
State Street Church and the Pax Center believe cynicism and pessimism get people nowhere in life or in faith. Loucks said ultimately new creation is hope, and when the community sees this once dead and forgotten space brought back to life in a new, useful way; hope will blossom.
“If this small church and community center can help bring about this new life over here, what else can everyone else do in the neighborhoods they inhabit?” Loucks asked.