For Regency Park, cultivating a healthy community begins with putting down strong roots (and growing them, too). After a year of hard work, their grant-funded community garden celebrated its first anniversary, surprising residents with an abundant harvest of onions, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, eggplant, and cucumbers.
Alliance for Health Equity, an organization committed to creating healthy conditions for Greater Coatesville, Pennsylvania families, endowed the Better Tomorrows community with a two-year, $100,000 grant, aiming to boost residents’ mental health, physical wellness, and job readiness.
Better Tomorrows partnered with local non-profit, Trellis for Tomorrow, to spearhead the community garden project. The organization constructed 10 all-new raised garden beds and installed deer fencing to keep out hungry wildlife craving an organic snack. The non-profit also taught the young residents gardening techniques, bringing on five as grant-paid gardeners (with eager friends often assisting).
Outside of the garden, Better Tomorrows partnered with Effective Change, LLC and Coatesville Youth Initiative, two Pennsylvania community-serving organizations, to support mental health and job readiness programming and projects.
So far, the community has held 10 mental health programs and plans to host 10 more during the grant’s second year. Other programs include parenting skills, familial relationships, and for children: social skills, personal space, and emotional health. The site also held “Seeds to Supper,” a program that taught residents about the importance of homegrown food.
“Does it feel different, eating [food] you grew yourself?” Regency Park Social Service Coordinator, Crystal Lowery, recalled asking the kids. She mentioned they especially love snacking on the cucumbers: slicing them into chips and dipping them in dressing.
Running the garden has brought Regency Park’s children an increased sense of pride in their community. On top of working in the garden, some youth volunteer at the community food pantry where they gleefully watch families pick up produce, realizing they’re really helping their community.
“It takes a village. We have to feed our people,” stated Lowery. To recognize their young residents’ success, Regency Park held a ceremony, handing out awards to the hardworking gardeners in front of proud friends and family. As the grant’s second year commences, the community hopes to host cooking lessons on how to create healthy meals from the fresh produce they cultivate and harvest themselves.