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Community crops

NSCC Social Services student leads greenhouse build for retirement home.
Billy Upton stands in front of the greenhouse at Villa St. Joseph du Lac. He led the build of the structure as part of NSCC Difference Dollars.

For Billy Upton, a new greenhouse filled with fresh herbs and vegetables was the inspiration to help grow a community connection.

Last spring, the Social Services student at Burridge Campus approached the Villa St. Joseph du lac with an idea to build a greenhouse for the residents through the NSCC Difference Dollars program. The program provided funds and encouraged students to use their skills to inspire social and economic development.

“I immediately had a passion for this,” says Billy. “We brainstormed as a class about the needs of the community, about sustainable and healthy food. That’s where the idea came from.”

Many of the people at the residence helped build this community. As a small community we owe it to them to give back and help improve their environment.

Billy Upton

Building the greenhouse

With the support of his instructor David Hurlburt, Billy and his classmates held information sessions at the Villa. The class bought seeds and material, and together with the residents, planted and stored them so they could be replanted in the finished product.

“A lot of the residents were excited to be a part of it, to share ideas and get their hands dirty,” says Billy.

Billy also approached carpentry instructor Greg Surette and held a meeting with the carpentry class. They created an estimate, helped secure material and built the actual structure.

“It had to fit the needs of the people using it and had to be fully accessible,” explains Billy. “It was great to have another class with that set of skills involved.”

Community impact

The goal for Billy and his team was to ultimately improve daily life for at least one person. Villa Administrator Rick Atkinson believes that goal has been surpassed.

“There’s no question that this project is a total success. Some residents have even volunteered to lead the process next spring,” he says. “It's so rewarding when the residents use some of the items planted in the greenhouse for cooking and baking. We could not be happier with what the greenhouse has done for the spirit of our elders.”

“Most of the people who live there, they helped build our community,” adds Billy. We need people trying to help people, to make life better for others. A little help goes a long way.”

Making a difference

Community has always been important to Billy and is part of the reason he moved back to his native Yarmouth to raise a family. It’s also why he enrolled in the Social Services program at NSCC’s Burridge Campus after completing the Adult Learning Program (ALP) to earn his high school diploma.

He’s grateful for the experience and says that he couldn’t have completed the project without the nearly 60 people, including roughly 30 NSCC students, who all contributed.

“That number of people wanting to help really demonstrates the power of a community coming together.”

Fast Fact

Nearly 60 people, including Billy's Social Services classmates, as well as students from the Carpentry program, helped plan and build the greenhouse.

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