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Kingston Like many areas bordering Interstate 20/59, Kingston is largely minority, with a population of 11,539 residents. The area has increased poverty and infant mortality, decreased life expectancy, and limited access to healthy foods. Neighborhood tension and fear of violence keep adults and children indoors, limiting opportunities for exercise and stifling attempts to build community.

The Kingston Coalition was established in March 2016 as a pilot project of a NIMHD grant. The Coalition’s first goal was to improve communication and relationships among each other. They held a successful “Get to Know Your Neighbor Day” on September 17, 2016, with food, fun, and fellowship and a chance for residents to voice their dreams for a better Kingston. Topics included unity and peace, violence and safety, better living conditions/environment, family, and faith.

Following the community day, the Coalition turned its focus on reviving the aging community garden. The team secured an external grant to bring new life to the Kingston Community Garden, doubling the number of raised beds, increasing the harvest, and fully stocking the garden with tools. 

Through the Coalition’s partnership with Independent Presbyterian Church (IPC), the MHERC’s six-week childhood obesity prevention program, Healthy Happy Kids was introduced to children from Kingston at IPC’s Children’s Fresh Air Farm. Nearly 85 children, ages 5-11, know the importance of healthy foods and an active lifestyle to living a healthy life.

The pride of the Kingston coalition is the visioning and development of the Kingston Teaching Farm at Morton-Simpson Village, which was funded by a national grant. With the help of community partners, the Coalition built a covered teaching area, tool storage building, and a raised bed garden. Through collaborations with ArchitectureWorks and Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Coalition is teaching Kingston residents about growing fresh vegetables for better health. 

The MHERC is an anchor partner in the Campus of Hope, a project of the local housing authority and is a hub of social services and opportunity agencies serving five housing communities. Since October 2018, the MHERC has reached 271 adults and children with health services, monthly Lunch & Learns, HHK, and the community walking program WALK, Feel Alive.

The Kingston Coalition also supported MAVERICKS, a youth violence prevention research study and mentoring program, which recently graduated 16 boys ages 11-14. MAVERICKS is a collaboration of MHERC researchers, a youth mentoring program, advisors from 100 Black Men of America, Inc., and funded through the Center for Healthy African American Men through Partnerships.