Partnering together to sponsor the Outer Banks Environmental Film Festival

Michelle Lewis, center, together with Maureen Lewis and Edward Jones Jr. are collaborating to put together the inaugural Outer Banks Film Festival, which was held in November of 2023 in Manteo. The Jones-Lewis Fund, managed by the Outer Banks Community Foundation, strives to support artists and content creators interested in bringing environmental awareness to the public through media. Photo courtesy of Summer Stevens

By Summer Stevens
Reprinted with permission from The Coastland Times

When Edward Jones Jr. was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer three and a half years ago, he had a
change of perspective.

“Going through chemo, and the process of fighting that battle, I came to understand that life is short. I
thought about when my parents had passed away and their age; and I calculated my parents’s; age and I
thought, ‘If God is good and if He allows me the same amount of time, you’ve got about 17 years of life

“What do l want to do if I only have 17 years left?” he asked himself.

Ed and his wife Maureen Lewis have had a second home in Southern Shores since 2001. They have fond
memories of summers spent with their grandkids, now aged 20 and 18. They wanted to find some way
to give back to the community they love.

With a background in broadcasting, both Ed and Maureen have a unique appreciation not only for clear
communication but with an emphasis on the environment. Ed is the manager of the education cable station for the University of the District of Columbia and for the past 15 years he has been producing a weekly show about the environment, with an emphasis on urban sustainability.

“In these 15 years I have learned to appreciate God’s creation – not only how to appreciate it but what I
need to do as an individual to sustain it,” he added.

When the Ed and Maureen learned about the Outer Banks Community Foundation, they reached out to
president and CEO Chris Sawin about creating a fund that could combine Maureen’s love for films and
their shared appreciation for the environment.

Meanwhile, since January of last year year, Peace Garden Project founder Michelle Lewis had been,
separately, on a similar journey of creating a weekend dedicated to showcasing environmental films.

The Peace Garden Project was started in New York in 2016 with a stated mission: “We don’t just grow
food; we grow a healthy community. Our work focuses on Environmental Justice, Food Justice and
engages the intersectionality of the justice issues present in our society.”

Michelle planted her first garden in the Outer Banks in 2019 when she moved back home.

“A film festival is in keeping with our work of environmental education by reaching out to people that
might not ever come out to garden with us… This is just another avenue that we’re offering for people
to get some exposure to environmental issues and concerns that are happening not just here in North
Carolina but around the world,” Michelle said.

Since January of 2023, Michelle had been putting the pieces together to create the festival, including forming a
steering committee to select films and securing locations to host screenings.

When Ed and Maureen mentioned their vision to Chris Sawin, he put them in touch with Michelle and
the three quickly realized that they could collaborate to accomplish their shared goals. They also share a
spiritual connection. (Ed was a Baptist pastor for 25 years, and Michelle has a master’s degree in divinity
as well as a ministry background).

“God put all the pieces together,” Ed said. “And as the verse says, ‘He works all things together for those
who love him,’ and indeed He brought all of this together.”

A donation of $10,000 created the Jones | Lewis Fund, with $3,000 dedicated to the 2023 inaugural
Outer Banks Environmental Film Festival. They have hopes for the future of the fund.

“We want this to grow and become a fund that is here long after we’re gone. [We want it to supply] the
necessary financial resources for the artists and content creators that are passionate about the
environment – preserving it and educating the public about the environment here in the Outer Banks.
This is just a beautiful area and we want to do our part, as long as we’re walking planet earth, to
educate and to preserve this place,” said Ed.

* The Peace Garden Project is now accepting submissions for the Outer Banks Environmental Film Festival to be held in Manteo, NC from November 1-3, 2024. For more information on this year’s event, click here.