In 2011, the 5,000-plus member church in Maitland received a $7,345 grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) as part of its FCN Initiative. The grant had two phases; (1) teaching parishioners how to garden by providing education, planting materials and personal grow boxes, and (2) the creation of a larger, learning garden located on church property.
This two-tiered approach has been highly successful, according to Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director.
The personal grow boxes introduced people to gardening in a non-intimidating way at home, while the church’s learning garden has excelled in providing horticulture opportunities on a much larger scale, she said. Equipped with six raised beds, a variety of plants are grown each season.
This month, the church’s Health and Wellness Team hosted its annual Spring Harvest Fiesta. The half-day program included activities for people of all ages and included educational topics such as Herbs: Planting, Cultivating and Harvesting, and Hydroponic Farming. There was a cotton spinning demonstration, as well as instructions on planting and caring for your grow box. Other demonstrations included how to prepare lemongrass tea, basil pesto and oregano tincture.
St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church has a thriving Health and Wellness Ministry that includes an all-volunteer nursing team. Through regularly scheduled events and weekly office hours, the team works to fulfill their mission “to integrate faith and healthy by promoting a healthy mind, body and spirit.”
The Health and Wellness Team presents adult exercise programs that promote balance and personal wellness. In addition, team members educate parishioners on relevant issues such as controlling blood sugar and blood pressure, providing care for older adults, navigating the health care system, and transitioning from hospital to home.
WPHF’s garden investment continues to provide many healthy opportunities for churchgoers to engage in education and physical activity, Ms. Silvey said. An added benefit has been the socialization that has resulted from this truly intergenerational activity. Families work side-by-side planting, weeding, and harvesting, enjoying nature and each other. It has added to the church’s deep sense of community. “It truly is the gift that keeps on giving,” she added.