By LaCount Anderson
An hour east of Raleigh, North Carolina, is the town of Conetoe (pronounced Co-neat-uh) — population 300. The town is surrounded by farmland, but the nearest grocery store is 10 miles away, making it one of the country’s many “food deserts,” where fresh, nutritious food is not readily available.
Over the past 15 years, our friend and now partner with Together For Hope (the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s rural poverty initiative), Rev. Richard Joyner, has helped the community become more healthy.
Richard tells us that during his first year as pastor of the Baptist church in Conetoe, he performed more than 30 funerals in the community. These funerals were for residents who were under the age of 40. The deaths were caused from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure — a direct result of poor nutrition.
Because of this, Richard started a community garden and enlisted the children and teenagers in the community to help him take care of it. The amazing part of this story is that these children and youth became so involved in the garden that they not only helped with the garden daily, but they also put their minds to work and organized a nonprofit that is now called the Conetoe Family Life Center.
The group even received a grant that allowed them to build an educational building for the ministry. This summer, more than 100 youth from the community can be seen busy working the garden as well as developing a honey business from a bee keeping enterprise. That single garden has multiplied to more than 20 gardens in the community as well as one large 25-acre site.
During the fall of 2015, Richard Joyner and my wife, Anna, and I, as CBF field personnel, made an agreement to join one another in this ministry. This summer we are busy working to complete a building that will be used as a classroom and processing structure for the produce that comes from the large garden just outside of town. A few weeks ago the men of Westwood Baptist Church in Cary, N.C., spent two days framing and forming the structure that now holds a walk-in freezer/refrigeration unit.
More work needs to be done and we welcome our CBF family to join us in completion of this project. Our goal is to finish the building as soon as possible this summer. A second goal is to get a used school bus that can be converted into a piece of equipment that will aid the honey business. As we work alongside the children, youth and Richard Joyner, our hope is to provide a Christian educational piece that will connect to this ministry of the Conetoe Family Life Center.
LaCount and Anna Anderson serve as CBF field personnel in rural North Carolina as part of Together for Hope, CBF’s rural poverty initiative. If you are interested learning more about this ministry, contact LaCount and Anna Anderson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.