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Toledo Community Foundation

Toledo GROWs

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Visit www.toledocf.org for complete information about the Foundation’s grant making. For additional information, contact Anneliese Grytafey, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives & Grantmaking, at Toledo Community Foundation, 419.241.5049.

The Toledo Botanical Garden comprises a beautiful oasis of flowers and trees in the Toledo area, at which many events are held throughout the year, including the ever-popular Crosby Festival of the Arts.  But behind-the-scenes of Toledo Botanical Garden are many projects and ways in which the Botanical Garden tries to reach out to the Toledo community.

Toledo GROWs, led by Michael Szuberla, is the community gardening outreach program of the Toledo Botanical Garden.  "GROWs provides people in the Toledo community with all the resources necessary to create thriving community gardens, including free seeds, free plants, soil improvement, educational opportunities, and on-going support," Szuberla explains. 

"By bringing the splendors of the Toledo Botanical Garden directly to people where they live, through gardens, the arts and nature, Toledo GROWs helps people to work together to improve their surroundings," Szuberla adds.

One project of Toledo GROWs that Toledo Community Foundation proudly supports through a Community Funds grant, is a partnership with the Community Integration and Training for Employment (CITE) program under the Lucas County Juvenile Justice Division, which provides paid job experiences to adjudicated youth through the Toledo GROWs program.  "In 2009, the partnership employed over 100 youth," Szuberla says, "And these youth made significant contributions to their community including the construction of 12 chicken coops, 2 green houses, what may be Toledo's first aquaculture project, tool sheds, picnic tables, and provided support for dozens of gardens - especially the gardens of senior citizens in Toledo."

Toledo Community Foundation specifically supports a very special aspect of the Toledo GROWs program: the City Farm Youth Leadership Corps.  Szuberla explains, "Thanks to a grant from the Toledo Community Foundation, the GROWs partnership has created a leadership program for promising youth in its job-training program.  The youth in the leadership corps have conducted workshops on raising chickens, become certified instructors of the 'Square Foot Gardening' method and provided workshops throughout the Toledo area, pioneered raising meat chickens in Toledo, and helped to start over a dozen beehives."  According to Szuberla, some of the youth from the leadership corps have even moved into long-term positions with Toledo GROWs, the Toledo Botanical Garden and AmeriCorps.  Many of the participants plan to pursue their newfound interests in college.

Szuberla notes the impact of the Toledo GROWs program on the people of Toledo: "On a daily basis, we work with dozens of people who improve their lives through our program.  Adjudicated youth often describe the program as life-changing and learn about talents they never knew they had.  Many younger children get to experience the joys of participating in a small farm.  For many seniors, our program offers them an opportunity to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for half the year."

The opportunity for adjudicated youth to not only learn a trade, but to discover new interests and continue to foster the growth of those interests in a college setting has been a beneficial impact of the Toledo GROWs program and its youth leadership corps.

 by Lydia Bottoni, Foundation Summer 2010 Intern 

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