We will become instruments of “miraculous mushrooming of care”—a goal that is repeated at every Bridging the Community meeting. It came out of the idea that if our community starts from the heart, then this most likely, the caring act will result with a mushrooming response. The phrase also has the fun of playing off of our town being called the “Mushroom Capital of the World” with residents resonating with this prolific growth process.
In the past month, my favorite “miraculous mushrooming of care” story came out of the Kindergarten Readiness Project (KRP), which was started after Bob George and I wrote the book “The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time.”The story goes like this:After writing the book, we discovered, although there were many community afterschool programs for school age children, the preschool group needed more community attention to prepare for school.
This past year, the second year of the Kindergarten Readiness Project, we promoted the idea that “nature is our teacher” and started to build on that theme. We were setting up hikes, organizing volunteers to establish community gardens, and providing donated books on the wonders of nature to help parents engage the natural educational resource that is right in their own backyard.
STOP! All projects were brought to a screeching halt with the “sheltering in place” orders. Pause, deep breath and then the question, “Is it possible to regroup and reframe and move forward with the work that is important to us, even in these times?”
Light bulbs went off and the idea of “bridging” preschools, who were involved in the KRP, with Chester County Food Bank agricultural arm was worth exploring. Phone calls made, emails sent and zoom meetings attended---continuing the work of going back to nature as teacher was alive in well. There was an enthusiastic response to making something happen, still abiding by social distancing, wearing face masks and staying out in the well-ventilated outdoors.
After one month, 100 plus preschool families have received potting soil, donated by Pratts Greenhouse and others, along with containers, seedlings, seeds and instructions about how to plant their treasures from the Chester County Food Bank. This will be repeated in two weeks when more Chester County Food Bank seedlings will be ready to be planted.
A bushel-full of thanks goes to the donors and the caring community volunteers who delivered the materials to preschool centers.In addition, the preschool employees have been the key to the success, because they have the trusted relationships with the families and are promoting the project and the lessons around nature. Tick Tock Learning Center, Creative Play, JAM/KSQ First Baptist Church and CCMCH/The Family Center are the participating preschools at this time.
The “miraculous mushrooming of care” comes when the preschool employees connect with the families with the supplies and the children respond with huge smiles as they start learning about the process of growing one’s own food. This isn’t a onetime event; they now have a commitment for caring for the garden over the summer, harvesting and learning about what it means to care for something to its fruition. This all plays into the Chester County Food Bank’s mission to help families with food donations, as well as teach them how to grow food.
We have learned through the pandemic experience that one group can’t stand alone. There needs to be collaborations, partnerships and yes, collective impact. Southern Chester County is working together as a whole network. It is amazing to see how organizations are willing to join together in making the best things happen.
Thepreschool collaboration with the Chester County Food Bank and families in Southern Chester County is one example of how working together can be a “miraculous mushrooming of care!”There are many more miracles happening around our community. What is your story?
The Story of Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. Contact Joan Holliday at firstname.lastname@example.org