On September 10, York Center Elementary received a beautiful new outdoor classroom and sustainable garden—thanks to Kids Gardening and Parts Town Holdings of Addison. Over 100 volunteers arrived early Saturday morning to construct a garden and outdoor learning space.
Samantha Boardstarr of Parts Town Holdings helped coordinate the volunteer efforts. Boardstarr said the volunteers’ goal was to extend the area by 16 feet, install eight raised garden beds, and add a series of picnic table benches to sit under a sun shade. Volunteers would also help add plants and beautification to the front of the school.
“The kids will help decide what will be grown,” said Boardstarr. “They will decide in their classes what to grow.”
Boardstarr said the project was the company’s largest charity event. “Our business is run out of Addison, and so we try to keep things local. We wanted to do something around food because we provide service and parts to the food industry,” she said. “Kids are near and dear to our hearts.”
York Center Principal Andrea Derdenger was delighted to see the number of volunteers who showed up bright and early. “We realize our volunteers could have spent their Saturday doing a million other things, and yet they chose to come here and help our school,” said Derdenger. “We could never have done this without their support.”
Derdenger said that her staff looks forward to allowing students to have an outdoor learning space.
“The kids will be so excited to use this space,” said Derdenger. “We’ve talked to them a little bit about it, and so they are looking forward to seeing the garden and being in this space.”
Rosanne Orsi, a special education teacher at York Center, co-wrote the grant. Orsi said that the garden was a vision that began in 2019.
“Three years ago, Anne Blyth and I were offered the opportunity to write the grant with Kids Gardening and PT Holdings,” said Orsi. “We were awarded the grant, and then the pandemic came, and everything was stalled.”
When schools opened up again, Orsi and Blyth resubmitted the grant and again were awarded. “We can’t even tell you how excited we are for our kids,” said Orsi. “It’s fantastic.”
Orsi said that some students don’t yet fully understand where some foods come from and that the garden will give them a chance to learn about growing things like blueberries and asparagus. In addition, a sensory garden will allow students the opportunity to touch and taste the foods they grow.
Orsi also expressed gratitude to Parts Town Holdings. “I’m overwhelmed by the number of people here today,” she said. “They are so organized and enthusiastic about this project. It’s nice to see how much people care about kids learning to garden.”
Tricia Novickas, who lives in the community but doesn’t yet have kids in the school, was also there to volunteer. “We just wanted to be here to support and give some hands-on help to York Center,” she said. “This is our community.”
Another volunteer was Ryland Marsh, a York Center parent who was there to help along with her daughter Izzie, a 3rd grader at York Center. “We recently moved into the area and wanted to feel part of our new community,” said Marsh. “This seemed like a perfect opportunity, and for us, if we are engaged with the school, it gives our child a better experience with her school.”
Emily Castillo, PTA President at York Center/Stevenson, was excited for the kids to have a new space to enjoy. She was confident that the work would be completed, given the number of volunteers who were there.
“This is great for our community as well. I’m excited for our students to have a hands-on experience with gardening. It will be amazing.”