I’ve long been drawn to the process of metamorphosis. When going through times of great change in my life, I think of the plump caterpillar enveloping itself in the chrysalis. Did you know that inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar digests its own body? The old body is broken down into imaginal cells which can become any type of new cell in the butterfly’s body. For days, what used to be the caterpillar is just liquid goo inside the chrysalis. It sounds impossible. How could a butterfly, with its delicate, colorful wings emerge from goo? Likewise, how can we emerge from such turbulent times? Even more than merely emerge, how can we make ourselves anew and reinvent the ways we move through the world into something even more beautiful? 

Organizations go through cycles as well. During my time at Project GROWS I’ve seen a small, community effort blossom and grow. Over the past four years I’ve seen children and youth GROW and community partnerships GROW. I’ve seen myself GROW. I’ve seen our staff GROW both in size and as a collaborative team. I’ve seen the farm GROW. I’ve seen our team GROW thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables. I’ve seen this community come together to GROW and change and create a path towards the future we want to see for ourselves and our children. We know it’s possible to create something beautiful. I’ve been so honored to be a part of that process through my role at Project GROWS. 

As I move into a new stage in my life, I am filled with joy and excitement for what is ahead at Project GROWS. The Geiman Barn at Project GROWS will soon be operational. Our work with the public schools continues to deepen through strong partnerships like the Youth Leaders in Agriculture program. Core partnerships with the Staunton Augusta Health Department, the Boys and Girls Club of Waynesboro, Staunton and Augusta County, and Virginia Fresh Match continue to vision and co-create innovative ways to respond to the needs of our community. 

While we know there are still great needs and many multi-faceted steps to reach our long term goals for public health in the region, when I think of these essential partnerships I think in terms of strengths and assets. This strengths-based approach is also how we approach our work at Project GROWS. When addressing an identified need, we ask ourselves, “Who in the community has the knowledge, skills, and resources to best address this issue?” We aim to come alongside others and make our knowledge, skills, and resources available where they can be most useful. With this approach, we can continue to amplify the individuals and organizations in our community who are actively working together to GROW healthy youth and families. 

This work is truly a community effort. I’m so grateful to be a part of that effort. As I transition from Project GROWS staff into that of a community stakeholder, I plan to continue to support these initiatives that improve the health and vitality of my home here in Staunton and the central Shenandoah Valley. I hope you’ll join me in that support. I hope you’ll join me in envisioning the beauty of what we are creating together and the potential of what we can achieve if we look to the butterfly as proof of what is possible.