Mutual Joy: An Intergenerational Place-based Project Strengthens an Illinois Community

A Grants in Place supported effort build community in Mattoon, Illinois

February 9, 2017 |

Photo by Kevin Kilhoffer, Journal-Gazette and Times Courier

Editor's Note: Last spring Williams Elementary Schoool, Mattoon, William Gherardini, kindergarten teacher in Mattoon, Illinois' Williams Elementary School received a Grants in Place award of $1,000, to help fund the collaborative Together We Can Project. Kindergarten students have been participating in a year-long gardening program that takes place at three community nursing homes. High school FFA students will manage the gardens in the summer of 2017.The kindergartners are working with other elementary students on a variety of intergenerational projects. William "Bill" J. Duey, Ph.D., Pastor, The Crossover Church is also the Director and Founder, Fit-2-Serve, Inc., which is a partner in what has become a school-wide community building effort. Bill has provided us with an update on the overall project. Thanks, Bill!

I love the phrase "mutual joy" that was shared by the resident who was interviewed for the article. There are so many stories behind that particular story to tell but alas, I am going to simply bullet point some of highlights:

1) We continue monthly to interact with 7 senior centers and engage
an estimated 100 seniors monthly with 240 elementary students.

3) Because partnership tend to breed partnership, we have been able
to expand programming to two 1st grade classes as we kicked off our
Farm-2-Table program this academic year in September. Monthly
classes are held to help student learn basic culinary skills and
make the connections of food coming from the farm and being prepared
TOGETHER for consumption as we work together around the table! In
fact, in a couple hours, I will be picking up a live chicken as a
part of today's class that is focused on poultry farms!

4) Again as a result of deepening partnerships and new models that
promote learning in the context of a community, another door has
opened to us and we have begun a Farm-2-School program working with
the FFA chapter at our local high school and two 2nd grade classes
as a pilot program this year in hopes of expanding to all second
grade classes at WES next year!

5) Next Friday, we get to share this work with local area seniors at
an event held monthly in our community titled Dine with a Doc. The
topic that will be shared this month is "Intergenerational Learning
and the Health Benefits of Volunteering." It is the hope that the
vision of "Together We Can" can continue to spread as we share this
good news.

6) Just yesterday, we received an invitation to present an
experiential workshop in Chicago at the 7th Annual International
Conference on Aging and Spirituality highlighting the work being
engaged and supported by the Rural Schools Collaborative.

7) On February 21st, at one of our sites, we have a visitor from
Decatur Illinois that will be observing the programming with the
goal of replicating the project with a school that they are
partnered with!

In summary, as one steps back and contemplates all that has
transpired we truly recognize that we are blessed beyond measure!
Furthermore, it is a HUGE blessing (both an affirmation and
confirmation) to have a partner like the Rural Schools Collaborative
not only supporting this work financially but asking about what has

Read more on our Grants in Place program.

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