YHCC at Spring Mill State Park

Beverly Clark

Toiling in a garden full of vibrant flowers and natural herbs growing on the outskirts of a fully restored 18th century pioneer village is more than a job to Beverly Clark - it's a dream come true.

“I grew up just down the road from (Spring Mill State Park), and always dreamed of working in the village,” Clark said, “and now here I am.”

As Clark, a member of the Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps, bends to pluck a weed from among flowers growing in Spring Mill’s Pioneer Village, a bluebird sky full of cotton candy clouds looms overhead. The sun is shining, a slight refreshing breeze is blowing, making the temperature perfect. Not a bad work environment at all.

And considerably better than a no-work environment.

“I’ve struggled pretty hard the last year,” Clark said.

In August 2008, Clark, a 21-year-old single mother who said she receives no financial assistance from her baby’s father, was laid off from her marketing job in Bloomington. She had been making just enough money to support herself and her then 10-month-old daughter Jillian, but hadn’t been able to save. With the economy worsening, Clark was unable to find a job paying a similar wage.

 “I got a job at a gas station close to home because my car broke down and I couldn’t afford to fix it,” Clark said.

A friend who also had recently lost her job moved in with Clark to watch Jillian while Clark worked. The setup was all right for a while, but eventually the bills caught up, and Clark lost her $525-a-month apartment in Bloomington. She moved back to Mitchell to live with her mom.

“I wanted to stay in Bloomington to find another job, but I didn’t have any money to fix my car. I mean, it was fix my car or put diapers on my baby. You have to do what you have to do until you can get stable again,” Clark said.

Clark went on unemployment. Her checks were $175 a week and she was able to fix her car.

“Going on unemployment wasn’t something I wanted to do, but I’ll do whatever I have to for my daughter,” Clark said.

When Clark found out about the YHCC from her 23-year-old sister Sabrina, who’s also working for the corps at Spring Mill, she knew the job was for her. The sisters had spent so many days as children playing on the park’s playgrounds and inline skating on the roads running through the dense woods of the park that working there together seemed fitting. 

“I’m working in the same gardens I played in as kid. This is awesome,” Clark said.

Clark said she really wants to stay on at the park, but if she can’t, she hopes to use the skills she’s acquiring as a gardener to land a job at one of the many nurseries in or around Lawrence County when the program ends later this summer.

“Beverly has done a good job working with me in the garden. She works hard and she’s learning. She’s been a lot of help,” said Pam Shull, village gardener.

Clark said she wonders what is going to happen when the program ends in September, but for now she is staying positive and trying to save all the money she can.

“I’m very thankful for this job,” Clark said. “If I could meet Governor Daniels, I would thank him for starting this program and giving all of us young Hoosiers a chance to work this summer.”

The job at Spring Mill may not be permanent for Clark, but the skills she’s acquiring through her YHCC job are. She hopes those skills will lead to more permanent future employment. At least for now,  working in the garden helps her grow.