Foodlink earns Excellus BCBS Community Health Award

The Lexington Avenue Urban Farm provides gardening space for more than 60 Rochester families — many of whom are refugees from Nepal, Somalia or Bhutan.

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Foodlink was one of 36 organizations across the state to earn a 2017 Community Health Award from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

The support, totaling $4,000, will help Foodlink create a safe and inviting play space adjacent to its Lexington Avenue Urban Farm in northwest Rochester. The farm, which began in 2012, primarily serves the local refugee community with more than 60 families expected to participate this year. There are dozens of raised beds, a 72-foot hoop house, fruit trees, bees and field beds. Many families visit the garden, so the goal of the project was to create a space for children to play while their family members tended to the garden. The area also will be open to children who don’t visit the garden, in an effort to cultivate a better sense of community between refugees and non-refugees in the Edgerton and Lyell-Otis neighborhoods. 

Nine Monroe County nonprofits won 2017 Community Health Awards totaling $27,500.

Foodlink intends to seek input from the community, the gardeners, as well as Common Ground Health’s Healthi Kids Coalition, which aims to — among other things — create a more “playable” Rochester for our children. 

The awards were announced April 20 at the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester. The club will use its $4,000 award to continue a new initiative to help students who have experienced childhood trauma. Two children who visit the Boys & Girls Club on Genesee Street attended the news conference, including Sylvester Carter III, whose mother was fatally shot last year. Carter, 14, gave a measured and eloquent speech about how the tragedy has affected his family and how the club helps him cope with the loss. 

He described his mother as “caring” and someone who would give him “all she ever had.”

“I can’t see that smile no more. I can’t hear her voice no more,” Carter said. “That’s why I thank the Boys & Girls Club. I can come here and get my mind off things, be with my friends, talk … all that pain and suffering is gone. I come here because they give me comfort.”

In total, $110,500 in funds were allocated to the 36 award winners out of approximately 200 applicants in a 31-county upstate region. The other winners from Monroe County who were honored Thursday include: Borinquen Dance Theatre, Inc., Child Care Council, Inc., Mental Health Association, RESOLVE of Greater Rochester, Samaritan Center of Excellence, Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach Prison Outreach and Willow Domestic Violence Center. 

Sylvester Carter III, who frequents the Boys & Girls Club, talks about losing his mother to gun violence last year and how the club has helped him cope with tragedy. (Credit: Excellus BCBS)

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