Photo by Justin Criado

 GTECH held a happy hour benefit Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Lawrenceville’s Franktuary restaurant to promote several ReClaim ambassador program projects, including two in Northside.

By Justin Criado

Even in a crowded room Lisa Freeman stood out. Making her way from tables to booths to bar stools, Freeman talked passionately to patrons and supporters alike about her most recent Northside project.

“I’m here to save the world,” Freeman said.

GTECH, which stands for Growth Through Energy+Community Health, held a benefit happy hour Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Lawrenceville’s Franktuary restaurant to promote several ReClaim ambassador program projects, including two in Northside.

A Manchester native, Freeman started the Growing Together Community Garden three years ago through an ambassador program offered by GTECH, and is now working on maintaining the space and expanding her efforts, which includes developing an old warehouse in to a pop-market and business district near her home on Liverpool Street in Manchester. GTECH has endorsed her recent Kiva Zip initiative.

“Now I’m doing real hardcore brick and mortar development,” Freeman said. “I 100 percent took advantage of what they had to offer and I just love the experience. It all goes back to playing in the dirt. It all started with GTECH.”

Freeman’s various community outreach projects have already brought the community together as she’s proved to people what you can do if you want to save the world.

“It’s made me a better citizen,” Freeman said of her GTECH experience.  “It’s made me a better social worker. It’s given me a better understanding and passion for people.”

Through the ambassador program classes this past year, Freeman met fellow Northsider Crystal Tackett, who also created an edible community garden on 104 W North Ave. in Central Northside.

“I had originally wanted a certain lot that I was denied,” said Tackett, who currently lives in Fineview. “Lisa was in my class and I mentioned about how it was denied and she said call the Salvation Army now. They want something to do with it.

“I called and they said this is great. They said I can do whatever I want to the lot as long as the kids can be involved.”

In partnership with the Salvation Army, the Northside Community Garden was created. Over this past summer, Tackett said volunteers and community members helped tremendously.

“Positive,” Tackett said of the community’s reaction. “I was not expecting it. Even when the garden was open any food that was taken from the garden was trimmed off so it means that somebody came and took care of it.

“People are even taking dead plants and putting them in to the compost bed. It’s actually being maintained.”

She added: “I’m surprised because a lot of the push back I got originally was that it wasn’t a good idea and I’m going to attract a lot of nuisance. It’s working and people are taking ownership of it already.”

Right now the garden features six beds for planting and one for compost. A gate was installed, and now Tackett is working on creating a play space for kids and just raising more awareness about the space.

“We just want to have it open to the entire community so people can come down and harvest with us,” Tackett said. “If it all works out you’ll have two great edible gardens in the Northside down the street from each other.”

The event featured a special food and drink menu with a percentage of each purchase going towards the projects. A video highlighting the projects was played on a loop, and each ambassador was given a mason jar for donation collection.

The ambassador program helps citizens who want to give back to the community develop vacant spaces and blighted areas. Ambassadors receive upwards of $2,500 per project from GTECH and are further supported through crowdfunding.

For more information about the projects and how to get involved visit the official GTECH website.

DSC_8251Photo by Justin Criado

Manchester’s Lisa Freeman (left) and Crystal Tackett of Fineview at GTECH’s happy hour benefit Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Lawrenceville’s Franktuary restaurant. As ambassadors for GTECH’s ReClaim Northside program, Freeman and Tackett have created edible gardens in Manchester and Central Northside.