Every year in May, Jones Valley Teaching Farm‘s GATHER fundraiser happens in homes across Birmingham, Alabama. We have a GATHER Squad that meets regularly, recruits hosts, and over a few days in May, we watch as families and friends GATHER at each other’s homes for potlucks, bbq parties, cocktail hours, and seated dinners to celebrate and raise money for Jones Valley Teaching Farm. We had 20+ events scheduled for this weekend. Everything was going great and then…hashtag COVID-19, hashtag quarantine, hashtag what is happening!?!?!

Our April Twilight Supper Series Fundraising Dinner was canceled. Schools closed. Offices closed. Restaurants closed. It seemed like the world was moving in slow motion. I don’t know about you, but it took me the entire month of April to get my feet steady (and I use “steady” verrrrrrry loosely here). The GATHER weekend was around the corner and I struggled to even think how we could pull off a concept of GATHERING when we can’t be together. I struggled thinking about how to ask for donations when so many people are suffering right now. I went back and forth between canceling yet another fundraiser or choosing to re-frame it and use it as an opportunity to connect. I mean, who even has the answers these days? Not me, that’s for sure.

Three weeks ago, I went on a walk and listened to a podcast featuring Ross Gay, an author and community gardener. He said:

I don’t know if a scientist has found this out yet, but when something good happens, do we gather around a thing? It is a feeling that I have, a deep feeling that I have, and I feel like it’s something that I witness, too, that people kind of want to share the stuff that they love.”

Yes. Exactly. We want to share the stuff we love and GATHER around it. It won’t look like our normal GATHER, but that’s okay. In a time of great uncertainty, what if I shifted my thoughts and expectations to be more about HOW we GATHER around the GOOD right now? It may not raise the same amount of money we had hoped, but what if it shared more connection and joy? What if it allowed families to spend more time together doing activities together at home? Well, here I am on the third day of our VIRTUAL GATHER experience, and I can honestly say WE ARE DOING IT!

Instead of events, people are GATHERING around our educational content we’ve been posting — trying out our recipes, making compost bins at home, growing food in NEW gardens or containers, going on scavenger hunts with their kiddos, and sharing ALL of that good stuff on social media. And yes, we are also raising money. Here are just a few examples of the love we are seeing this weekend:

My heart is full and because it has been such a success, we are going to keep this going throughout May! Please join us as we GATHER around Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

Our content WITH lesson plans can be found here: https://jvtf.org/our-blog/

You can also just re-post our content by sharing our Instagram posts here: @jonesvalleyteachingfarm

Our fundraising page is here:https://gather.swell.gives/

Other folks have been using the Facebook donation button and that works fine too.

In a time when the world feels so divided, it’s been refreshing to see so many people come together to support our work. It has also helped shift my own uncertainty and fear this weekend — probably when I needed it most. So full. So grateful.