Planting the seeds of success

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Head Start and School Readiness Program preschooler Kevin, 4, of Naugatuck gets a helping hand from Michele Gagnon, left, and Carla Abate, right, both of Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan, to plant a cucumber in the Children’s Garden at Central Avenue Preschool in Naugatuck July 12. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Head Start and School Readiness Program preschooler Kevin, 4, of Naugatuck gets a helping hand from Michele Gagnon, left, and Carla Abate, right, both of Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan, to plant a cucumber in the Children’s Garden at Central Avenue Preschool in Naugatuck July 12. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — Children from the Head Start and School Readiness Program got their hands a little dirty last week.  

The preschoolers with volunteers from Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan, parents and program staff planted the “Children’s Garden” at Central Avenue Preschool Friday morning.  

The garden has been in the works since May, when the students planted many of the fruits and vegetables inside the school, Program Manager Faith Buckley explained. Once the three raised garden beds were in place alongside the school the children dove right in — helping lug bags of soil and planting tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

Janice Mons, Head Start and School Readiness director, said the children came up with the idea for the garden. She said the garden will help strengthen many of the school readiness skills needed to enter kindergarten such as literacy skills. The garden will help develop literacy skills as the children have read books on gardening and will be creating journals about what they’ve learned, she said.

“It is truly wonderful when a young child’s learning is sparked and fueled by their own interest,” Mons said.

Mons added the garden couldn’t have come at a better time as Head Start programs across the country deal with cuts from the federal sequestration. In Connecticut, she said, 502 children were cut from the overall enrollment due to the sequestration.

Naugatuck’s program hasn’t had to remove any children, she said. But, Mons said, hours and days of programming have been reduced as well as other cuts from the budget.

The garden was made possible through a community partnership.

Head Start and School Readiness Program preschooler Jazlyn, 4, of Naugatuck and Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan President and CEO Bill Calderara plant a cucumber in the Children’s Garden at Central Avenue Preschool in Naugatuck July 12. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Head Start and School Readiness Program preschooler Jazlyn, 4, of Naugatuck and Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan President and CEO Bill Calderara plant a cucumber in the Children’s Garden at Central Avenue Preschool in Naugatuck July 12. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The program received donations from Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan, Ed’s Hardware and Walmart. Buckley said the program is also working with Home Depot to get the area around the garden fenced in for the children’s safety.

“I think this garden symbolizes the community’s commitment to Head Start and we will continue to appreciate and be grateful to our many dedicated partners,” Mons said.

Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan President and CEO Bill Calderara along with three volunteers from the bank helped out with planting the garden.

Calderara said along with giving monetary donations to community organizations the bank likes to get involved in hands-on projects.

“It’s fun to get out and be involved with the community,” Calderara said. “This seemed like the perfect way to do that.”

See more photos here.