Clayton News-Star

Grant will pay for new greenhouse at community center

Natalie Bradford, left, and Valerie Eckhoff pick butterbeans on Aug. 13 at the Clayton Community Center garden.
Natalie Bradford, left, and Valerie Eckhoff pick butterbeans on Aug. 13 at the Clayton Community Center garden.

The town will use a $4,500 grant to build a greenhouse at the Clayton Community Center, an addition town staff say will augment learning opportunities for residents and increase produce yields for a local charity.

Clayton’s Parks and Recreation Department was one of 16 across the state to receive a Healthy Eating Equipment Grant. The N.C. Recreation & Park Association and the BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Foundation partnered to award $70,000 to local governments for projects that increase access to healthy, local foods.

Clayton will build a 14-foot by 14-foot greenhouse next to an existing community garden, where residents take classes and grow vegetables that the town donates to Clayton Area Ministries on Main Street.

“With a greenhouse, we can grow vegetables year-round and expand what we can grow,” said Amy McClain, the recreation program coordinator at the Clayton Community Center.

McClain said the greenhouse will also protect crops from deer that sometimes munch on plants in the garden. “They are eating our zucchinis this year,” she said.

The Community Center, in conjunction with the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service, started a weekly gardening class earlier this month. The class, which costs $20, meets from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at the Community Center, 715 Amelia Church Road.

Food from the gardening class will also go to Clayton Area Ministries, a local food bank that serves needy families.

The pad for the new greenhouse is built, and the structure should start going up in the next few weeks, McClain said.

This is the first year the N.C. Recreation & Park Association has partnered with the BlueCross BlueShield Foundation, which has joined with other nonprofits in past years to hand out the healthy-eating grants.

Michelle Wells, executive director of the statewide association, said parks and recreation departments often have programs that promote physical activity, and healthy eating is equally important.

Each town was eligible for up to $5,000 in grant funding. A committee reviewed applications and made recommendations for funding.

The Town of Selma received $5,000 through the grant program for kitchen equipment in the newly opened Harrison Center for Active Aging. The center, which also includes a reading room with an attached computer lab, an arts and crafts space and two exercise rooms, has a dining room and offers daily meals.

For more information on Clayton’s gardening class, call the Community Center at 919-553-1550.