Summers can be rather boring for children. While kids usually love the thought of being out of school and free from homework assignments, they often have a difficult time staying occupied and active. One woman from Warfield, Kentucky found a way to change that this summer.
Denise Stepp, who serves jointly as the coordinator for the Warfield Elementary School Family Resource Center and as a volunteer coordinator for Children Incorporated’s child sponsorship program, established a gardening program at her school. As a result, not only do the children keep busy and have fun, but Denise has also provided a service to many families in the community.
Denise, who loves gardening, decided to share her green thumb skills with the students that she serves. She went to the school principal and asked for permission to begin a food-to-table gardening program that the students, out on their summer break, would oversee. He gave his blessing for a large plot of land behind the school, and he wrote a grant for a small greenhouse and gardening supplies. Denise rounded up the children and got them excited about planting, caring for, and harvesting the food they would grow. Children Incorporated then provided funds so that Denise could purchase a compost barrel in order to help the children learn how compost enriches garden soil.
Denise has been volunteering for Children Incorporated for over twenty years, and during this time, she has worked constantly to remove barriers between home and school by providing various resources and services.
Denise’s summer gardening camp ran every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer, and she and her helpers worked with the kids on gardening techniques. Funds from Children Incorporated allowed Denise to buy supplies such as canning jars and freezer bags to preserve the garden food. The children have loved participating in the summer gardening camp! They have taken part in many hands-on learning activities, from baking muffins with zucchini they themselves have grown to making sauerkraut from their cabbage harvest – and they’ve taken jars and bags full of freshly-picked vegetables home to be shared with their families.
A long-time volunteer
Denise has been volunteering for Children Incorporated for over twenty years, and during this time, she has worked constantly to remove barriers between home and school by providing various resources and services. The Warfield community was once a coal-producing area; however, as a result of a decline in the coal business, there is now a high unemployment there. The community now has a 93 percent poverty rate. There are a lot of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and there are many single-parent families. The children endure great poverty, and some come from rather unstable homes. Denise cares deeply about the students she serves, and she goes the extra mile to show them love and support. Her job does not end at 3:00 p.m. with the close of the school day. She takes the job home with her; it is consistently on her mind.
Denise doesn’t just talk the talk — she walks the walk. Thanks to the child sponsorship program at the school and additional contributions from Children Incorporated, Denise is able to ensure that many children receive basic needs that support their well-being and health, such as clothing and shoes, and also school supplies, books, and backpacks. Under her guidance, the school system also held a summer feeding program, which transported breakfasts and lunches to 600 children Monday through Friday all summer long.
As the new school year begins, corn and potatoes will be harvested from the summer garden, and used to prepare food for the students and families on Kentucky Heritage Day. On October 13 of this year, Denise will host a pig roast, and the children will experience the rewards of their hard work by enjoying foods prepared with vegetables they’ve grown. The school garden has given the children responsibility and a sense of ownership of their school. They take pride in the building, and vandalism is at an all-time low. They are also learning to eat more vegetables in order to be healthy and fight obesity. Much of this is due to the dedication and love displayed by Denise Stepp.
HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?
You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.