On August 20, 2020, AARP announced that we won a $10,000 Community Challenge grant!
We’re 1 of just 3 communities in MA to get one of these highly competitive grants. Our project involves seniors in Beverly, gardening, and pairing seniors with a local parent or guardian/child team to plant and tend the garden.
One of our Downtown 2030 goals is to create a “Downtown for All” and as we started working with Mary Ann Holak and the Beverly Council on Aging and Senior Community Center about what that means for seniors, we were made aware of this grant opportunity. We enlisted the help of one of our board members, Gary Moffie of The Remodeling Company, and we came up with the idea to purchase an elevated raised garden beds made of cedar, plants, and soil for 50 seniors in Beverly. Our original plan was to put them at the senior housing properties and have groups of seniors plant and tend to them, but with social distancing guidelines, we pivoted and decided to put them in the front yards of individual seniors’ houses and apartments in the spring of 2021. Leonhard’s Florist partnered with us to provide high quality soil and plants, and even came through with donation to cover the increased cost of materials. Participants were encouraged to grow vegetables if they have sunny yards, and flowers if they have shade, and received help from Leonhard’s to pick out the plants.
The benefits that seniors receive from gardening are well documented – it reduces social isolation, improves physical and mental well-being, burns calories, reduces stress and can even help dementia patients. Since we received the grant from AARP and they accept membership starting at age 50, we welcomed any senior aged 50+ to apply. To make this a multi-generational project, we found 50 parent or guardian/child teams to help “their” assigned senior to plant the bed, take photos to share on social media, and interview the senior about why they wanted to participate. The teams will return to visit the senior and the garden bed a month later to check in on both of them.
In spring 2021, the garden beds were delivered and planted!
Here’s what our our seniors and parent or guardian/child teams are saying:
“My flower box looks fantastic blooming under my living room window. They came to my house, filled the flower bed, planted the flowers and wrote “I Heart AARP” on the side. A nicer, kinder, more generous family there is not. I am delighted to be a part of this..”
“My family had a really nice time chatting with our senior, hearing about her very full life, including her experience meeting President Eisenhower and more. This was such a nice way to spend a morning, and so simple to participate in. Thanks for organizing it!”
“The families had a good time this morning planting their raised garden beds.”
“We had a great experience planting our senior’s raised bed this weekend. My family loved our morning of gardening. We’re so thankful for the project and the grant that made it possible.”
My family and I really enjoyed meeting our seniors and helping out with the garden bed project! We are grateful for the opportunity to teach our boys about helping others and being involved in our community.”
“When kids are into something they put their all into it and this family did just that. It was so nice to be with young people with their funny little sayings and jokes and just being comfortable with their surroundings. I had a ball and I think they did also. It means so much to me to have made new friends and see what a great job Beverly does for its seniors.”
“We had a wonderful day today meeting our new friends, picking out flowers together, and putting together the bed and planting everything!”
“We all had such a great time, from meeting and picking out flowers together to building and planting!!! I’m so glad we were able to meet and do this together! My children haven’t stopped talking about how much fun they had with you and how much fun you are! We would love to stay in touch and get together. The best part of the project was meeting you!”
“We had a wonderful time building the flower bed with our senior. Thank you for the opportunity to do so!”
“We had the loveliest time yesterday building the planter and planting flowers. Thank you for having us to your home!”
“It was so nice! I love my new garden bed and the family that helped was great!”
Please enjoy these photos – more coming soon:
Here’s the local press release about the AARP grant:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 20, 2020
Cindy Campbell, firstname.lastname@example.org; 617-305-0515
AARP Awards Three Massachusetts Organizations with Community Grants as Part of Record-Breaking Nationwide Program
Boston—Today, AARP announced that three Massachusetts organizations will receive 2020 Community Challenge grants – part of the largest number of grantees to date with more than $2.4 million awarded among 184 organizations nationwide. Grantees will implement “quick-action” projects to create more livable communities across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Here in Massachusetts, funded projects include:
Beverly Main Streets: Awarded $10,000 to supply 50 senior residents with raised garden beds to be installed and planted with flowers and vegetable plants in front of their homes. To combat social isolation, seniors will also be matched with local families who will visit and assist with gardening.
City of Greenfield: Awarded $22,000 to transform a parking lot into a vibrant pocket park and community gathering spot in the center of downtown. Plans include the creation of a rain garden, a new bench at an existing bus stop, a chess table with chairs, and a bike pump/repair station.
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative: Awarded $10,000 to create dynamic virtual spaces for intergenerational dialogue so that residents can connect online to address community issues, attend workshops and join support groups.
“We are incredibly proud to partner with Massachusetts grantees as they work to make immediate improvements in their communities, encourage promising ideas and jumpstart long-term change,” shared Mike Festa, AARP Massachusetts State Director. “Our goal at AARP Massachusetts is to support the efforts of our communities to be great places for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities and the coronavirus pandemic has only underscored the importance of this work.”
All projects are expected to be completed by December 18, 2020, and are designed to achieve one or more of the following outcomes:
–Create vibrant public places by improving open spaces and parks and activating main streets.
–Deliver a range of transportation and mobility options by increasing connectivity, walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, and access a wider range of transportation choices.
–Encourage the availability of a range of housing by increasing accessible and affordable housing solutions.
–Increase civic engagement and demonstrate the tangible value of “Smart Cities” by bringing together local leaders and residents from all backgrounds to address challenges.
–Support coronavirus response and recovery efforts by ensuring older adults’ access to information, essential services, and civic life.
The Community Challenge grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which helps communities become great places to live for residents of all ages. View the full list of grantees and their project descriptions at www.aarp.org/communitychallenge and view an interactive map of all of the Community Challenge projects and AARP Massachusetts’ livable communities work at www.aarp.org.
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.
Cindy Campbell | AARP Massachusetts
Director of Communications
One Beacon Street, Ste. 2301, Boston, MA 02108
(O): 617-305-0515 (C) 617-697-4044