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WisCorps disaster relief crew deployed to La Crosse area for virus efforts

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Justin Holten with WisCorps AmeriCorp’s COVID-19 disaster relief crew picks up trash April 17 on the bank of the Black River in Copeland Park. The crew, that recently received a $12,022 grant from the La Crosse Area Emergency Response Fund, has been busy filling needs in the community including the river cleanup, serving meals at the Salvation Army, and preparing for spring planting a Kane Street Community Garden. On Friday crew members picked up over 240 pounds of trash in two La Crosse parks.

Pandemic efforts across the city are gearing up in the coming weeks.

The Wisconsin Conservation Corps announced last week that it received a roughly $12,000 grant from the La Crosse Area Emergency Response Fund to support a crew who will help with efforts around the city.

The crew will work collaboratively with several community partners, according to a statement.

It’s currently serving meals at the Salvation Army, delivering meals for Coulee Region RSVP and cleaning up flood debris in two local parks.

Other collaborations are being finalized with the Emergency Operations Center, La Crosse County Health Department, Hunger Task Force, Catholic Charities and the Neighborhood Associations of La Crosse.

“We are looking forward to providing this critical support right now and being an active part of our community’s solutions to the impact of the pandemic,” said Matt Brantner, executive director for the corps, in a statement.

The crew will be deployed through May 8.

Garden efforts growing

The deployed WisCorps members are also preparing to help in the Kane Street Community Garden this season, which will be part of the victory garden effort announced earlier this month.

When first announced, the city was unsure how many volunteers it could muster, but now several different groups and individuals have offered to work the gardens.

According to new plans rolled out by the city planning development, the Kane Street Hunger Task Force Garden will be included as one of four community victory gardens to help with possible food shortages during the pandemic.

On top of the WisCorps crew, other volunteers from various different neighborhood associations have stepped up to plant and manage the gardens, including Bluffside, Weigent Hogan, Holy Trinity Longfellow, Lower Northside Depot, Hintgen and Grandview Emerson neighborhoods.

The planning department also reached out to both the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Western Technical college for student support. One instructor at UW-L has already indicated about 25 of her students would help in the fall semester.

Individuals have also volunteered, and the city has indicated that funding could be provided for a part-time worker to manage the beds, if the need evolves.

The department has identified three other sites for gardens, including City Hall, the Hogan Administrative Center, and possibly two South Side locations at the Shelby Hillview ballfields and Aptiv.

Each location was chosen based on its access to water and placement within already food-insecure neighborhoods.

All of the initial funding for the project will come directly from the planning department, which is giving $20,000 to garden preparations and $5,000 annually to operations. Additional funding will come from Community Development Block grants and donations.

The gardens would be open to the public to access foods, mimicking efforts during World War II that fed communities during food-insecure times.

Each garden will be using “efficient” planting practices, like planting three crops on top of each other that grow and are harvested at different times during the season.

In the initial plans released last week, the first early season planting will include radish, kale, lettuce, potato, carrot and onion. Each garden will be 32 by 50 feet.

It was reported that each garden has the power to feed at least 100 people. The groups will monitor how much food is produced in pounds as the first crops are harvested.

According to city planner Jason Gilman, the preparations for each garden site are expected to start in two weeks, then the first seeds and plants will be put in the ground.

"We are looking forward to providing this critical support right now and being an active part of our community's solutions to the impact of the pandemic."

Matt Brantner, executive director for the corps, in a statement.


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