When you think about gardens, you don’t typically think of the desert. However, in the suburbs of Las Vegas, there’s an organization that is not only building a system of active gardens throughout the city but creating opportunities and sustainable employment options for those most vulnerable.
Rhonda Killough is the director and founder of Project AngelFaces, a program designed to work toward the prevention of hunger, diabetes and waste by creating more sustainability in one fluid system of support programs. After overcoming physical trauma from a motorcycle accident in 2002, Killough found therapeutic healing in herbal and organic practices. Eventually, she began her first garden upon the suggestion of her occupational therapist. What were just nine productive citrus trees on her neighbor’s unoccupied property in 2005 started the first harvests for what would become Project AngelFaces. “No pun intended — it happened organically,” remarks Killough.
Locally, Killough found that Las Vegas is one of the most wasteful cities in the world, and saw patterns of diabetes in some of its more poverty-stricken communities. East Valley Family Services was the first organization she began working with on a local level who provide for those with fewer resources, specifically targeting seniors and at-risk families with children. Through existing social services, they aim to shift the abundance of waste and bring produce to those who don’t have access to organic, healthy resources.
“Built out of repurposed materials and run by volunteers, these raised gardens bring fallow land to life with crops such as beans, carrots, peas, bok choy and other sustainable, organic foods.”
“Education in sustainability and consuming fresh, whole foods is key,” says Killough, who now has 12 functional gardens built and five in operation throughout southern Nevada. So-called community support gardens are sustained through public and private agencies and other non-profits. Built out of repurposed materials and run by volunteers, these raised gardens bring fallow land to life with crops such as beans, carrots, peas, bok choy and other sustainable, organic foods.
Project AngelFaces also works with groups like the Empower Us employment agency to teach organic gardening from seed to plate and create employment options for those most vulnerable, including developmentally disabled adults. Now, Killough looks to partner with cannabis industry leaders to provide job placement and sponsor training programs for developmentally disabled adults and veterans with injuries sustained while in the service, as well as those suffering from PTSD.
Killough’s goal is to create easy access to sustainable living practices and to lower our carbon footprint; a blueprint for a springboard of hope, if you will, by building an infrastructure of inclusiveness. “By using plants, we are taking health into our own hands, fostering independence and empowerment,” Killough tells me. “Reach out to us if you see fruit trees going to waste. We are organizing harvesting parties every day.”