Celebrating Mary Black Foundation’s History: 2012
Mary Black Foundation Becomes a Private Foundation
2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the Mary Black Foundation’s role as a private foundation in Spartanburg. However, the Mary Black Foundation has a legacy that extends beyond the last 25 years. In fact, the Foundation was originally formed in 1986 – 35 years ago – to support the Mary Black Memorial Hospital and related community programs.
The sale of the nonprofit hospital to a for profit company, in 1996, led to the reconfiguration of the Mary Black Foundation and its significant growth in assets. In the 25 years since the Mary Black Foundation separated from the hospital, it has provided over $62 million in grants to support health and wellness initiatives throughout Spartanburg County. During this same time, the assets have grown to over $75 million.
In 2010, prior to receiving the Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant, the Northside, a designated food desert, embarked on an initial planning process to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to the community through a partnership with the Mary Black Foundation, neighborhood residents, and the Hub City Farmers’ Market; the initiative led to the creation of a mobile market.
Success with the mobile market eventually led to the relocation of Hub City Farmers Market to the Northside as part of the neighborhood’s transformation. In 2012, the above partners, along with the Butterfly Foundation’s culinary job training program, began construction on a Food Hub, which would be the new home of Hub City Farmers Market, an urban farm, the Monarch Café, a training center for the Butterfly Foundation, and a gathering place for residents, collectively known as “Harvest Park.”
Eliminating a Food Desert
Harvest Park grew from an idea that a community working together could fight food disparities in Spartanburg. The facility springs from the effort of many partners: local, regional, and national, all with the idea of creating a “farm to fork” opportunity in a food desert. Harvest Park offers Northside residents a chance to buy healthy produce within walking distance for the first time in more than a generation. It also gives the greater Spartanburg community a place to gather for the weekly farmers’ market, concert, party, or other event.
This ground-breaking shopping plaza represents all aspects of the food system. At the rear of the property, the Urban Farm intensively cultivates produce on a half-acre site, which eventually ends up in Hub City Farmers Market’s Mobile Market or the Butterfly Foundation’s Monarch Cafe and Food Store. At the front of the property, Hub City Farmers Market holds its weekly farmers’ market. Next to the pavilion is the Monarch Cafe and Food Store, offering produce for sale, freshly prepared meals, culinary training, and rental kitchen. In concept, design, and execution, Harvest Park serves as a model of collaboration and determination to rid the community of a food desert.
Tony Thomas, Community Engagement Coordinator for Northside Development Group, and advocate for Harvest Park says:
The Northside Initiative has been successful due, in part, to the $200,000 contribution from the Mary Black Foundation to establish Harvest Park. As the central location for the local farmers market, Harvest Park has become the focal point for access to more nutritional food options that were formerly unavailable to community residents. The impact that Harvest Park has had is widely recognized by those who participate and will continue to be a crucial factor in changing health outcomes for the better. The Northside community is grateful for the partnership with the Mary Black Foundation.
The Butterfly Foundation
The Butterfly Foundation provides assistance in the areas of housing and job readiness and training. Their mission is to empower, transform and transition the lives of economically challenged individuals and families into self-sufficient and self-confident citizens. The Culinary Job Training Program was formed to prepare the unemployed, underemployed, previously incarcerated and homeless adults for a career in the food service industry. The Mary Black Foundation and the City of Spartanburg provided the funding and space to conduct the first 12-week class.
Jordan Wolfe, Executive Director of Hub City Farmers Market says:
Harvest Park brings all kinds of people together around the celebration of food and community. Harvest Park provides a space for us to support our farmers, small business owners, youth, entrepreneurs, and more, creating a more equitable food system for Spartanburg.