AmeZone: Building community

Middle school and high school students looking to become more involved in the community can now join AmeZone, a service learning organization formed just this summer. Not only is the name snazzy (Ames + Zone?! What ingenuity) but the new organization raises awareness of the homeless and impoverished. AmeZone’s biggest project is a Homeless Community Garden, which works with the less fortunate through the planning, planting, caring for, and harvesting stages of a community garden. Members will be better able to connect to the reality of homelessness and poverty. They hope to begin planting in April and plan to donate the food to food pantries and shelters in Story County. “It’s our goal that AmeZone members will learn about nutritional planting and the environment,” AmeZone’s Laura Logsdon said.”In addition, [they’ll be] gaining a better understanding of poverty and homelessness in our community.” That said, however, AmeZone’s activities aren’t solely limited to planting delicious nutritious vegetable matter. About two weeks ago, the group went out and did a trash pickup, and another upcoming project is weatherization, where students will put up glass and caulking to make homes more energy efficient for winter. “We plan to complete one project every month,” Logsdon said, “[We hope] to identify community needs and work to solve those problems…while gaining valuable personal experiences.” At a brainstorming meeting in August, 10 youth from around Story County and 15 adults came up with over 70 service learning project ideas. Since then, the youth have prioritized those ideas and focused on the areas of the environment, homelessness, poverty, and hunger. Why, yes, this is a reference to “Students helping eliminate POVERTY and HUNGER” (otherwise known as SHEPH). It just so happens that the two organizations have similar goals, so SHEPH is now encouraging high school students to join AmeZone. SHEPH is best known for its global outreach, but now there’s an opportunity to help some people a little closer to home. “I’m definitely really excited about it,” SHEPH leader Akshay Sanghi said. “If we can get [the Community Garden] to be self-sustaining, the people who are using it can own it themselves. It’s basically giving them a chance to get their own food instead of giving them welfare.” Even though it sounds like AmeZone is on its merry way to success, it can’t get there without the most important super-special-awesome ingredient: you. AmeZone is still a volunteer organization and its success depends entirely on the strength of its members. That garden isn’t going to plant itself. You need to get out there and make it. “This project is huge, so we’re going to need a lot of help.” Sanghi said. Check out AmeZone’s website,, for pictures, information on future projects and meeting times and location. Even the smallest effort will make a difference.