By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – The Rainbow Child Development Center in Worcester, an early education and childcare agency, recently held a garden party ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the newest addition to their property in Worcester. Shrewsbury resident Nancy Thibault had a big part in developing the garden by enlisting many community partners in her position as the strategic communications and development manager of the nonprofit organization.
She has been with the Rainbow Center for just over a year and a half.
“I’ve always been working with families at risk,” Thibault said. “After being a part of larger organizations, I could see that Rainbow offered many opportunities to help Worcester families in need in a very impactful and direct way. My job is to cement relationships with existing business and community partners and to extend Rainbow’s reach by establishing new collaborations in the Greater Worcester Community. Not only do the children benefit from the new garden, but the project has established many community partnerships and improved the Bell Hill neighborhood.”
Now, instead of an empty, weed-choked, neglected space with an unappealing fence along Edward Street, three large raised beds nestle between neat wood chip paths. Volunteers cleared out the weeds and the trees were trimmed. Plans for the garden and its blueprint were provided by the Regional Environmental Council and UGrow. Young people from Holy Cross, Worcester Technical High School, Youth Works and St. Bridget Youth Group did the heavy lifting. UMass Memorial Hospital donated the materials for the raised beds and the Carpenters Union Local 107 built the framework for the beds. The Department of Public Works donated the loam. Volunteers carried in the 14 cubic yards of loam and mulch, heavy wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow.
In June the garden was planted with vegetables and herbs. Three months later, the garden is brimming with lush cabbages, peppers, tomatoes and herbs.
Once the garden was established, the children took over. Each of the preschool children ages 3 to 5 had a little green
and yellow watering can and carefully watered the plants once a week. They also measured the plants weekly and learned about the different rates of growth. Other crafts and art projects were developed to emphasize the science and math program.
The older children from 5 to 13 attended summer day camp at Treasure Valley in Paxton and would return to the center in the late afternoon when they helped with the weeding and watering.
When the vegetables were ripe, they harvested the peppers and tomatoes to give to Chef Stanley Linfield to use in his meal preparation.
“Many of these children had no idea where food comes from. Now they have a great appreciation for the farm to table concept,” Thibault noted.
The impetus for the project came from a grant awarded by Massachusetts Early Education and Care program to sponsor part of the healthy life style and nutrition curriculum.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have had the immediate resources to initiate the garden project,” Thibault added. “Together with our community partners and Rainbow’s team, we are transforming children’s lives. As our garden started with seeds and has grown into food we can eat, so have our children blossomed and grown.”
The Rainbow Child Development Center provides services and food to nearly 300 children from infants up to 13 years old. According to their mission statement, “provides education and therapeutic services to children and families in a safe, nurturing and diverse environment where children learn and grow to reach their individual potential and families receive encouragement and services to support their children’s development.”
For more information, visit rainbowcdc.com.