Alumni Highlight: Emma Kinnard Now Commissioner

   Campus News | Posted on December 29, 2023

On Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, Emma Kinnard was sworn in as commissioner-at-large for the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Kinnard's 4-year term will begin on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

Emma Kinnard (Simmons) graduated from Andrews University with a focus in horticulture in 1976. Since then, she has continued to hold the university's mission close to her by seeking knowledge and affirming faith in order to change the world. Kinnard has served her community in many ways — as a community activist, volunteer and mother-figure to many. Kinnard struggled for positive change in her community while working in Benton Harbor Area Schools as a paraprofessional for 26 years before retiring.

Kinnard has also nurtured positive change over the past 15 years as the founding director of the Fresh Start Children's Garden, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing gardens to urban communities and to educate, motivate and encourage communities to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.

During the Dec. 18 meeting, the commissioners also voted on a resolution to sell Kinnard the property where one of her community gardens resides. Commissioner-at-large Mary Alice Adams said, “I’ve seen you feed this community and spend time with the children teaching them. For as much as Mrs. Kinnard has done for this community in her capacity of being a mother of this food desert, I recommend that we revise this (resolution) to $1.”

Mayor Marcus Muhmmad also supported Kinnard, stating, “I’ve worked closely with Mrs. Kinnard for many years. What we have is a model for urban gardening, not just in Benton Harbor.”

As she prepares for the new year, Kinnard looks forward to creating a larger impact by changing the world for the better — creating change with her garden by bringing fresh meals to families in need and as a newly elected commissioner-at-large for the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan.

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