Keeping Community: Thrive On! Kingston Spotlight
When COVID-19 hit close to home, many individuals, organizations, and communities shifted their focus to surviving through the pandemic. Two creative and forward thinking Bard students, Keyvious Avery ‘21 and Aidan Galloway ‘21 knew they wanted to do more than just help people survive, they wanted them to thrive, and thus Thrive On! Kingston was born.
Thrive On! Kingston stands out for its success, initiative, and inclusiveness. This project has united community members in the effort to provide resources to one of the most marginalized communities in Kingston and the Greater Hudson Valley area: those experiencing homelessness.
Their work began in the Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences (ELAS) course “Hudson Valley Cities/Environmental (In)Justice” taught by Peter Klein. Klein describes the course's intent as “[to] link theoretical and conceptual ideas of environmental justice, urban change, [and] urban development.” For this course, another link was the bridge leading to Kingston, New York where students were tasked with developing or getting involved with engagement projects in partnership with Kingston community organizations. Throughout the semester, students developed community partnerships centered on local challenges such as housing, food security, and food justice.
Keyvious and Aidan took the course to gain experience examining the reality of urban development. As an economics major, Keyvious saw it as an opportunity to pursue the study of urban economy in a more tangible way. For Aidan, the class allowed him to pursue questions of development economics and explore what that looks like in an urban context. As Aidan describes:
“Reading the course description of Peter’s class… [it] really spoke to the part of me that wants to figure out how to be an architect or urban planner or some kind of designer...or go into that space while also keeping in mind the social issues that are so prevalent and are made visible by cities. I got really interested in the question ‘what does development look like in the context of a city?’”
Both students share an interest in the logistics of urban development, as well as prevalent social issues, and this intersection allowed them to focus their attention on the homeless population in Kingston and the effect of COVID-19.
For Thrive On! Kingston, this means that COVID-19 resources are not limited to masks, wipes, and PPE equipment, but also include other essentials such as soap, shaving kits, body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. And to thrive, additional items are needed such as reusable bags, water bottles, notebooks, pens, and blankets, among other items. Upon compiling this list of items, Keyvious and Aidan created the Thrive On! Kingston kit.
During our interview Keyvious showcased the packages he had just received for the Thrive On! Kingston kits. Some of these packages included socks, shaving kits, laundry detergent, sporks, pens, and soap. He emphasized the team’s focus on taking the time to ensure quality, citing the organic aloe vera in the shaving kits. Once assembled, the kits are scheduled to be delivered to high-volume homeless shelters in Kingston, as well as the community organization Beyond 4 Walls Outreach Program. What Keyvious sees from the people in Kingston is that:
“[they] have this common idea and this common image of where they want to see Kingston. You can see this amazing momentum and amazing effort with everyone actively aiming to achieve that; where they want to see exceptional progress from Kingston. To me that’s the thriving spirit. When everyone’s there together, when everyone realizes that there’s a vision beyond what any one person can make. So everyone comes in to put that together.”
This mindset is what grounds this project’s mission to thrive. Featured on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, Thrive On! Kingston has raised $4,142 to produce their kits, exceeding its original goal of $3,800. While they have achieved great success, their focus is still concentrated on addressing the needs of the community they are serving. They intend on continuing the campaign and have begun talks about expanding as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. As the project continues, there have been conversations about incorporating more Bard students into their effort. However, both Keyvious and Aidan acknowledge that future plans are dynamic and will adjust to the present needs of this community they are serving. While Thrive On! Kingston began as a reaction to the pandemic and homeless crisis in Kingston, the momentum surrounding this project showcases the gravity of its purpose. Through continued work and partnerships, we are certain this project will not only survive but will thrive.
Post Date: 07-27-2020