NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - An effort to bridge the gap between races, cultures, language, and socioeconomic status is happening at Briarforest, a Nacogdoches County community of primarily Hispanics.
One man living there is encouraging his neighbors to establish trust with the so called "outsiders."
Carloads of Stephen F. Austin State University social work students converged on the home of Jesus Sauceda Friday.
"Coma esta," Sauceda said. "Buenas dias."
Wilma Cordova, an associate professor of social work at SFA, knows from experience to make friends with the trusted community leader before beginning any outreach effort.
"Mr. Sauceda is an indigenous leader in the community," Cordova said. "Well respected. In his hometown in Mexico he was a community organizer and developer. And we have a relationship with him to work in the community."
It helps all of Sauceda's children attended SFA. When he was asked to support a community garden project, he eagerly said yes.
"He's excited that students want to come out here and work and learn about agriculture and planting and sustainability," said Cordova, who was translating for Sauceda.
"The goal is to empower them to grow food that's healthy," said Jim Lemon, a Resilient Nacogdoches leader.
Resilient Nacogdoches and Austin Height Baptist Church Earth Care Ministry provide the instruction.
Sauceda's enthusiasm for the project quickly spread to his neighbors. There will be four community beds and the requests for backyard vegetable beds are growing.
Kelly Carver, SFA Social Work Student-"I do think there needs to be more communication," said Kelly Carver, an SFA social work student. "How that happens, I'm not sure, but I do think people need to get together and help out their community."
Sauceda is looking forward to growing tomatoes and peppers to better control his diabetes. Neighbors anticipate lower food bills and healthier children. Trust is the seed for community growth.
The raised garden beds will be planted in April with seedlings. The project was funded in part by a grant through the SFA Social Work Department. Resilient Nacogdoches and Earth Care Ministries welcome volunteers on this and other projects.