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Old and young create garden for the needy

“Did you bring your green thumb today, Elsa?”

That’s what Dr. William Smith, president of Aging in America, asked one of his senior citizens as he approached the gorgeous new garden at Bartow-Pell Mansion on Wednesday, August 11.

It was a sweltering day, but seniors from the Morningside House, which is a part of AIA, as well as a number of different representatives involved in the project, came out to celebrate the opening of a special vegetable garden that seniors had built from scratch with kids from Morningside House’s summer daycamp.

The intergenerational effort was a source of pride for all involved, and not just because of the achievement of creating a garden. The seniors and kids were also happy to know that everything grown in the garden will go to the POTS (Part Of The Solution) soup kitchen in the Bronx, which feeds the hungry.

“We started this in May when it was just an open field,” beamed Sunae Thomas, a program coordinator at Morningside House. “Our seniors really put a lot into it, they came out every day in the hot sun to plant and weed.”

A large poster board set up at the event showed photographs of the garden’s creation, from designing layout to preparing soil, weeding, watering, and finally, the planting.

Seniors and summer camp kids wore matching t-shirts that said “Our Sharing Graden: Morningside House residents gardening for food pantries.”

Paul Bufano, program host, explained that Morningside House asked Bartow-Pell to use their property to make a garden that would grow vegetables for people in need. Bartow-Pell loved the idea, as Ellen Bruzelius, the Mansion’s executive director, was all too happy to announce.

“We’re delighted to have you all here on this roasting hot day,” she said. “Having a garden on the premises has been something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Maureen Sheehan, director of development at POTS, was especially touched by the garden’s creation. “Every single day, more than 300 people show up at POTS looking for a nutritional meal,” she said. “That’s in addition to 50 or 60 families that come to the pantry to get food they can take and cook in the dignity of their own homes. And we are so privileged and honored to be included in this garden.”

Senator Jeff Klein was on hand as well. One year ago, Klein gave $10,000 of funding to AIA, a portion of which went into the garden. Klein addressed the seniors and children, saying, “The intergenerational summer camp is a concept I’ve always loved. We don’t do enough to tap into our resource of senior citizens as mentors to our young people.”

Klein’s love for the intergenerational attitude was returned in kind by represenatives from both groups. Evan Latcha, a camper, thanked the senator and said, “It’s been so great planting this garden, playing games and having fun.”

Meanwhile Rose Canavacuilo, a resident of Morningside House, read a funny, rhyming poem the seniors created. As one line went, “Oh, what a beautiful garden, with all sorts of veggies and flowers. It hasn’t been an easy project; it takes hours and hours and hours.” Finally, after all was said and done, those who made the garden enjoyed the fruits of their labor, eating zucchini bread and other healthy treats as they surveyed their work.

“Blood, sweat and tears went into this garden,” said Jean Daniels, a recreational aid for Monringside House. “And a lot of love.”

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