With a vision to create a vibrant and sustainable connection throughout the community with youth and their families, the Community Garden was established in the summer of 2014. Our first “bridge” became known as Learn-2-Grow. Realizing the opportunity to create transformation, new programs were developed and implemented using the pedagogy of service learning: preparation, action, reflection and celebration. In addition, the programming would be longitudinal, beginning with kindergarten through 5th grade youth. Providing “life touch” opportunities throughout a child’s elementary educational experience would provide development of relationships.
Generation-2-Generation was established in January 2016 with 80 youth and 2 senior living facilities participating in Mattoon. In January 2019, over 700 youth and 10 senior living facilities participated in the program that has now expanded to the Charleston community.
In the fall of 2016, Farm-2-Table was established by piloting two 1st grade classes from Williams Elementary School. Through a matching funds campaign, a Teaching Kitchen was created in the adjoining Green House. In the fall of 2018, all 1st grade classes from Williams Elementary and two 1st grad classes from Riddle Elementary schools now participate. The 2019-2020 academic year will provide Farm-2-Table classes to all 1st grade classes in both elementary schools.
Since then, Community Bridges now includes Farm-2-School, providing the next "life touch" with 2nd grade classes. In partnership with the Mattoon High School FFA program and Master Gardeners, the breadth of interaction with community volunteers continues to grow.
Recently, Talents-2-Strengths was piloted in two 5th grade elementary school classes, along with 50 students from the Mattoon High School JROTC classes. Our goal is to help them develop their unique talents and learn how to turn them into strengths.
In 2019-2020, it is our goal to pilot a new program, Learn-2-Serve, for 4th grade students. The program would assist students in identifying a need in the school or community, develop plausible solutions, then assist in implementation of the service project.
Our goal is a long-range, 10 year outcome to realize a transformation of a vibrant and connected community.