June 29, 2020; Elyse Erdman
Serving the community has always been an essential part of our day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Before the Covid-19 crisis, Growers regularly went in the community to volunteer at various places such as food banks, nursing homes, and community gardens. Locally, they served at the Ronald McDonald House, Caring Cupboard, Paxton Street Ministries, Caitlin’s Smiles, and more. They also took trips to movie theatres, orchards, libraries, malls, and markets. The Growers love to be involved in the community and it gives them a true sense of meaning and value.
When Dauphin County entered yellow phase on May 29th, 2020, we were allowed to send Growers into the community once again, but on a very limited basis. Growers normally participate in a six hour program daily, but they now are limited to four hours in the community only on a few days a week. Their locations are mainly outdoors and include parks and strawberry and blueberry fields. Volunteer opportunities are in short supply at this time, but Growers currently volunteer at Meals on Wheels, the Hershey Community Garden, and Milk & Honey Farms. Growers have also been doing various projects at local conservation sites, such as weeding, mulching, and painting park benches. They get treats from Rita’s, mini golf at City Island, and visit petting zoos. One of the favorite outdoor outings is playing with baby goats at Batz Farm. While Growers are on their outings, they tune into the Farm Zoom parties and participate in the craft, yoga, and/or music therapy activities of the day. Staff member Amanda Ream stated, “The Growers are grateful to be with their friends making a difference in their community again. It truly shows by the amount of pride they have in their work.”
The vans that staff travel in to take Growers to their outings need to be cleaned extensively daily, and there can only be one individual per row in the van to account for social distancing measures. Staff are required to wear masks, and Growers are encouraged to, although staff take into consideration that some of them are unable to for medical reasons. We are ecstatic to be able to offer community outings for Growers, but with the required limitations come additional costs to our organization. There is additional vehicle maintenance because fewer Growers are allowed in each van, and additional payroll costs because the groups of Growers are smaller, but need the same number of staff.
We need help from our supporters to continue providing community outings to Growers. If you would like to give to our general fund which supports the more staff per Grower regulation, and increases our vehicles and cleaning supplies, please visit https://farmofhope.networkforgood.com/projects/14912-friends-of-hope-springs-farm