The little green thumbs at Children of Hope Preschool/Child Development Center and Kyrene de los Cerritos Elementary in Ahwatukee reaped grants for their gardens last week.

Both schools received a $500 grant from Jamba Juice and KidsGardening.org to help them with their projects.

Additionally, the Garden of Eatin,’on which the Children of Hope do the growing, has received an unrelated $1,500 grant from the National Association of Realtors through the Southeast Valley Regional Association of Realtors.

The nonprofit community garden is a project of Esperanza Lutheran Church on Thunderhill Place, Ahwatukee. The church also runs the pre-school.

Children of Hope Director Lynn Hockenberger said the grant is a welcome help for her and her students.

“As a small non-profit school we do not have a large budget,” she said. “One of our volunteer parents, Dale Howell, who helps the children each month with the gardening activities, found this grant opportunity for us and we had to give it a shot.”

KidsGardening.org has been a resource for school and youth gardening since 1982 and provides garden grants, research and curriculum. “We create opportunities for kids to learn through the garden, engaging their natural curiosity and wonder by providing inspiration, know-how, networking opportunities, and additional educational resources,” a release explained, adding:

“We believe that learning through gardening should be an indispensable part of children’s education and personal development. Learning through gardening creates generations of kids connected to their food and community and engaged in nurturing a healthy planet.”

The Jamba Juice-KidsGardening.org campaign, called “Team Up for Healthy School Gardens in Phoenix,” have provided close to 250 grants totaling $130,000 for schools and youth gardens.

At Cerritos, Kyrene School District spokeswoman Nancy Dudenhoefer said, Jeanette Sandoval and her husband helped get the garden ready for planting last year.

“They helped us put in the irrigation and soil,” Dudenhoefer said. “She sent me the email about the garden so we would have more resources for our garden. I wrote the grant and was thrilled that we got it.”

“We get $100 for soil and planting,” Dudenhoefer added. “That's a generous amount to begin growing vegetables and fruit. We have a hurdle to get over first. Every summer we have huge overgrowth of grass and weeds. We are reaching out to our community to see if someone is able to till the garden in order of us to get it ready for students to use. “

Dudenhoefer said some students belong to a group called Leaders of Gardening and that the garden harvest is donated to the Kyrene Resource Center, which helps impoverished students and their families.

“We are also hoping to collaborate with our lunch providers to begin composting as a way for students to understand the importance of recycling to help the earth,” Dudenhoefer added.

Hockenberger said her students, all 2 to 5 years old, “will use the money from the grant to rent our garden bed from the Garden of Eatin’ community garden on our campus and to purchase seeds and soil and other gardening materials.”

When they start planting this month, they’ll keep doing it until April. “This year we plan to plant a giant pumpkin, sunflowers, carrots, lettuce, peas, beets, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower,” Hockenberger said.

The Realtors’ grant was made through its Placemaking program, which the association describes as an effort “to help make local communities better places to live and work by transforming unused public spaces into vibrant community places.”

Garden of Eatin’ President Pam Yount said her group “will use the money to enhance our existing garden site.

“We’ll be constructing a new storage facility for our equipment and we hope to build a pergola that will provide shade for outdoor meetings,” she said.

“Realtors live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them,” said Craig Peck, president-elect of the Southeast Valley Regional Association of Realtors and a member of the Garden of Eatin’ group.

“Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities,” he said. “It creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better.  This grant will allow us to address an area in Ahwatukee that can benefit from enhancement and create a place where friends and neighbors can come together.”

“As the Ahwatukee area becomes more attractive and welcoming, local properties are likely to increase in value,” he added.

Information: sevrarar.com, childrenofhopecdc.com, myesperanza.org.

-Send community news to pmaryniak@ahwatukee.com

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