by Sarah Bowen, Annie Hardison-Moody, Lilly O’Connell, and Josephine McKelvy
We recently completed our 6-month site visits with 4 of our 5 mini-grantee organizations in Harnett County, and we’re so excited about what they’ve accomplished!
Lillington Star Playground
Lillington Star Free Will Baptist Church is working hard to make sure that their congregation and community members of all ages have opportunities for physical activity and fun. Last year, they were awarded a mini-grant to provide signs for a walking trail and exercise classes for church members. This year, they received another mini-grant for playground and exercise equipment for the kids in their church and community. We talked to Crystal Baker, a member of the congregation who applied for the grant. The equipment will go in a wooded area right next to the church; the surrounding trees will provide shade for the kids as they play. “Right now, the kids in our congregation just run around the parking lot after church,” said Crystal. “This will be a great opportunity for them!”
But there is still much to do before playground can open! Crystal is looking for someone to help them clear some of the trees around where will the playground will be. Eventually, they would like to put down mulch and add a picnic table. To find out how you can help or volunteer, contact Crystal at 910-658-1136.
Wonder Years Preschool Garden
The sounds of little ones – crying, laughing, playing – greet everyone who enters the doors at the Wonder Years Preschool at Anderson Creek Club in Spring Lake. Voices into Action provided mini-grant funding to support a school garden where the young children can learn about producing and eating healthy foods. The garden, although small, is growing. During the summer and fall of 2014, the Wonder Years four-year old classes planted raised beds and vine gardens with carrots, cabbage, squash, broccoli, and grapes. Jennifer then worked with the three-year old class to harvest the produce. The kids love to “monitor” the progress of the garden. As Jennifer told us, they report what’s going on with the garden to their teachers and parents. Since the garden is outside, in their playground space, the kids at Wonder Years are able to check in on what’s happening every day.
The kids also planted herbs, which they were able to take home to spice up their meals. They were able to show their parents what they grew during a family night in October and a community open house the week of August 25th.
The Wonder Years staff has big plans to expand the garden, including installing a gazebo with planters, a sound garden, and a water trough that will help to promote mental health and “peace,” for the kids, as Betty explained. The staff at Wonder Years see gardening as an integral part of their programming, and they love the ways that the garden can help to connect kids with science.
Shawtown Community Garden
Frances Harrington and Patricia McKoy have been working hard over the past several months to build and harvest a new community garden located at First Missionary Baptist Church in Lillington. The garden is on a vast plot of land and has 12 rows in production.
During the warmer months, production was quite strong, particularly for string beans, butter beans, peas, green peppers, corn, okra, zucchini, and squash. Frances and Patricia have donated quite a bit of their high-producing crops to senior centers in Shawtown and Riverside, as well as to a family in Dunn; the squash had such a great yield that the people at the senior center had to tell Frances to stop bringing so much of it to them!
They had volunteers plow the garden in early October, and during the winter months, they have been growing collards, cabbage, and turnip greens in a smaller “demonstration garden” to find out how well they will grow. Patricia has taken over the lead on this project, and she plans to keep the garden growing – and possibly even expanding it – next spring. She is hoping to get some more support from the local community and surrounding churches to help with maintenance next year – stop by the church or contact Patricia if you’d like to get involved!
Harnett County Partnership for Children – Go NAPSACC
The Harnett County Partnership for Children received a mini-grant from Voices into Action to work with ten Harnett County daycare providers to increase physical activity and healthy food options. Lynda Turlington, the Early Childhood Learning Coordinator at the Partnership, administered the Go NAPSACC (Nutrition And Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care) assessment to find out what kinds of activity and healthy food options are already being offered at local daycares. She has been meeting with each daycare provider to develop an individualized action plan to improve upon their current practices. Daycare providers will attend a fun training for the Be Active Kids program to keep kids active in the classroom, and Lynda has compiled some great resources that include creative and cost-effective ways to increase healthy food choices in the classroom.
We are excited to see the improvements in the daycares’ practices and children’s habits as the providers implement their action plans!