Neighbor of the Month: She's Legacy in Action, and She's Not Alone!
Mariel Gardner is a community light.
She's also a living testament to the combined power that inner spirit, collaboration, and dedication have to affect positive change. In her own words, "My ancestors created their own vibrant, thriving community as a form of protection and survival, and graciously passed it down to me. The power in what they created is not lost on me despite the efforts of others to destroy their dreams. So many West End neighbors are working to preserve this legacy for those who will one day call us ancestors...I am so proud of their work and they inspire me every day."
Continue reading to learn more about the work she's doing in Louisville's West End, and to feel inspired by this remarkable Neighbor of the Month!
Hi Mariel! Tell us a little about yourself: I'm a 38 year old graduate of the University of Louisville and the J. Graham Brown School. I've worked at Humana for 16 years and I'm President of the West Louisville Women's Collaborative. I'm a swimmer, haphazard photographer, knitter, farmer and world traveler.
What have you been working on in your neighborhood? Besides the maintenance of the WLWC Peace Labyrinth, we are in the midst of a mask making project. Mask Collaborative 360 is looking for people who sew to volunteer those talents to make 360 masks to distribute to West End Neighbors.
I, personally, am working on the creation of an urban farm collective. Apocalyptic Acres aka 5th Element Farms is a network of West End high tunnel greenhouses located on formerly vacant lots that will have the capability to grow food for neighbors year round. I’ve never grown anything in my life. But after participating in the Neighborhood Institute, I learned you can do anything with the right help.
How did you get involved in this work? I used the Asset Based Community Development methodology to hone in on my neighborhood’s assets in order to use them to fix its problems. Land is always an asset and the West End has plenty that is being underutilized. I thought if I could learn to grow food, I could give it away and help a block increase its positive health outcomes by providing cleaner food and combating blight. Ask the West Louisville Women’s Collaborative how they chose me. I’m still amazed that I get to kick it with such an amazing group of women, let alone lead them.
What do you love about your neighborhood? I love my neighborhood’s legacy. My great grandparents moved to the California neighborhood from Christian County in the 1940’s. They bought their first home and raised their 12 children in Louisville. My ancestors created their own vibrant, thriving community as a form of protection and survival and graciously passed it down to me. The power in what they created is not lost on me despite the efforts of others to destroy their dreams. So many West End neighbors are working to preserve this legacy for those who will one day call us ancestors. The camaraderie amongst these groups, organizations and individuals is beautiful beyond words. I am so proud of their work and they inspire me every day.
What are your hopes for your neighborhood in the future? I want the 2nd location of Louisville Cream in the West End. I am very serious about my ice cream integrity.
Click here to watch a time lapse video of building the West Louisville Women's Collaborative Peace Labyrinth!
Do you know someone who deserves a spotlight? If you would like to nominate a neighbor to be a “Neighbor of the Month,” email Ryane Puckett: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please include their name, neighborhood, and your reasons for why they should be Neighbor of the month.)