A grant-funded gardening project at Pink Hill Elementary School grew into lessons on volunteerism and the impact of hunger.
The school partnered with the regional nonprofit Young Women of Promise on grants written by – and awarded to – the nonprofit’s founder and director Theresa Williams. The grants, from the Warner Brothers and Points of Light Doo Good for Hunger program and Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, supported the Planting Seeds of Promise youth garden and hunger initiative.
Teacher Brenda Griffin, who coordinated the initiative at the school, took the project a step further by turning the intergenerational dinner promised in the grant application into an opportunity for the 20 participating fourth-grade students to learn about service.
The June 6 dinner, held in the school’s media center, honored adults who had volunteered at Pink Hill Elementary during the school year, including a contingent from Spring Arbor assisted living facility in Kinston that came to the school about once a month to read to kindergarten and first-grade students.
“Students are learning the true meaning of volunteering,” Griffin told the dinner guests. “They know it requires a servant’s heart and they know there’s no money attached to it, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in doing something good for others. They’ve learned that about you this year.”
The spaghetti dinner recalled the vegetables in the “spaghetti garden” students planted. The fourth graders also planted flowers and made greeting cards used as decorations and gifts at the dinner. Students served as the wait staff during the dinner, taking beverage orders from the guests and bringing their salads and entrees.
Between courses, former math teacher Betty Lawson, a Spring Arbor resident, said she got as much out of being a volunteer reader as she gave. “I enjoyed it,” she said. “It was giving something back to the community. I’ve always enjoyed academics and felt like I could give back.”
As much as a meal, the dinner was built around gratitude – the gratitude of Griffin and Williams to the grant providers, the school to the volunteers and the adults to the students.
“The kids have been amazing to work with,” Williams said. “I took the opportunity to apply for grants for a children’s gardening project centered around hunger, how it impacts families and young people but also how it could impact older citizens as well. We embarked upon planting gardens, which allowed young kids to get their hands dirty; and they really enjoyed it.”