By David Rogers. May 1, 2019. BOONE, NC — Tomatoes, lettuce and other assorted vegetables should be available in abundance at the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center this summer. The Watauga County Project on Aging’s gardening initiative got a big boost on Wednesday from the Carolina Panthers’ “Keep Pounding Day.”
COVER IMAGE: Volunteers flexing their muscles, Keep Pounding Day drew big smiles from the participants and the seniors they serve. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Some three dozen community volunteers and representatives of Lowe’s Hardware and the NFL’s Panthers converged on the Senior Center on Wednesday to build vegetable planter boxes and raised garden boxes. Lowe’s and the Panthers contributed not just materials, but also joined with the community volunteers and interns from Appalachian State University to provide the planning and labor for the all-day project.
“This is the Senior Center community garden,” Center director Billie Jo Lister pointed out to Blowing Rock News onsite, her hand sweeping across the horizon in pointing out the area just west of the building the Senior Center shares with the Appalachian Enterprise Center. “Every year we solicit donations to get it going, then the seniors help mind the garden. When we harvest, all of the vegetables go to the Senior Center. ”
Asked about the number of seniors participating, Lister noted, “We have a little over 300 seniors participating in this. Of course, we don’t grow enough to supply food for 300, but we also provide a lot of fun and a meaningful experience for our participants.
“A lot of people downsize as they grow older,” Lister added, “so a lot of seniors don’t continue to garden even though they enjoy it. They miss it, and this provides them an opportunity to get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and revisit one of their youthful passions. This gives them an opportunity to stay in touch with gardening.”
The Boone project is one of 25 selected this year for the Carolina Panthers’ “Keep Pounding Day” community outreach, all of the projects being undertaken on May 1st across the two states of North Carolina and South Carolina, the NFL franchise’s primary market.
“Any time we can get out in the community for projects like this,” said Brian Pille, a human resources manager with the Panthers, “it is a great opportunity. I feel blessed to be able to come out here and help out.”
Joe LaBue is Vice President, Ticket Sales & Services for the Panthers and understands the value in community outreach.
“It is important for us as an organization and as individuals to give back to the communities that support us,” LaBue observed. “The team represents the Carolinas, so it is important that we get outside of Charlotte. We are an organization that represents both states.”
Curious about the football backgrounds of the Panther staffers helping out, Blowing Rock News asked. Standing among his four colleagues from the Panthers, Pille smiled in saying, “We were talking about this a bit on the way up this morning. We all come from unique backgrounds. I played football at a small school up near Cleveland, but for all of us we’re not doing anything related to our college majors. For all of us, it is about the love of the game, whether we played or not.”
Jessie Hollis, Caitlin Hullett, and Morgan Manzer are all interns from Appalachian State University and serving at the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center for the Project on Aging — and they all claimed to be football fans, both of the Panthers and of Appalachian State.
Asked about their favorite App State players, Hollis grinned and said, “One of them HAS to be quarterback Zac Thomas.”
“And Jalen Virgil is SUPER fast!” Manzer chimed in.
“We helped plan this project along with Billie Jo (Lister),” Hullett explained. “That’s how we got involved, as part of our internships.
Angie Boitnotte, Director of the Project on Aging for Watauga County told Blowing Rock News, “We really appreciate the support of organizations and businesses like the Carolina Panthers and Lowe’s. We do a lot here in Watauga County as the focal point for aging services. We encourage independence, as well as promote wellness for the county’s older adults. We provide in-home aide services, home-delivered meals, nutritional services, transportation, and so much more. We want our older adults in Watauga County to actively participate in all aspects of their lives.”