Last year, Wellspring’s Gardens Manager Jill Brown, Director of Operations and Culture Dave Perkins, and Director of Shelter Services Liz Wuenschel came together to brainstorm new ways to bring Family Shelter guests and the tenants from Wellspring’s subsidized housing property together to engage in various gardening projects across Wellspring properties.
Every year, Wellspring’s Gardens Staff partners with local organizations and volunteers to maintain the gardens in preparation to harvest seasonal greens, tomatoes and vegetables to share with guests living at the Family Shelter. In 2021, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was still a barrier to many social events, and the group realized sharing a meal was a great way to come together in gratitude and connection to share the bounty from Wellspring’s plentiful gardens.
This year, the entire Wellspring community was invited to the “Share the Harvest” dinner, as well as students from Wellspring’s job-training, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and education programs, and it was huge success! The group enjoyed a homemade pasta dinner featuring fresh herbs and veggies harvested at the main house in West Gloucester, delicious cookies and treats, and spent time with Ace the Comfort Dog from the Gloucester Police Department, and his handler, Gloucester Police Officer Peter Sutera.
One of the best parts of the gathering was the intermingling among the community, which included Family Shelter guests and Wellspring tenants, program participants and staff. Sometimes at these types of events, individuals can be reserved and converse with people they know, but that was not the case here! In fact, event guests appeared to really enjoy chatting with and learning about each other and the different programs they were involved with.
One ESOL student and Wellspring guest really connected, despite the fact one party spoke Spanish and the other Haitian Creole. Completely independently, they communicated with each other using their cell phones and Google Translate while watching their children playing together.
While the evening was rooted in community-building and in celebration of the Wellspring harvest, the real treats were the connections that emerged as a result of a cozy, festive and very welcoming atmosphere. “It really felt special to me and I think that’s the way a lot of other people felt about it too,” said Director of Shelter Services Liz Wuenschel.
Thank you to Wellspring’s Gardens Manager Jill Brown for all your hard work orchestrating this wonderful event for the entire Wellspring community.