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Nonprofit garden school ripe for expansion

Posted: 7:00 AM, May 05, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-05 13:10:21Z
Granny's Garden ripe for expansion
Granny's Garden ripe for expansion
Granny's Garden ripe for expansion

LOVELAND, Ohio -- A month after a funding shortage threatened to shut down operation, Granny’s Garden School is still in session.

The Loveland-based nonprofit, which needed to raise $5,000 by April 3, has raised about $20,000 since the end of March. While the money is enough to cover costs for the next couple of months, the organization’s leaders are continuing their fundraising efforts in hopes of raising another $20,000.

“We met the first level of funding, and we’re well on our way to the next level of funding,” said Angela Faulhaber, head of the Granny’s Garden board fundraising committee.

Roberta Paolo started Granny's Garden at Loveland Primary School in 2002. It has since grown to include three Loveland schools and one in Princeton City School District.

Granny’s Garden School was created in 2002, when Roberta Paolo was picking up her grandchildren from Loveland Primary School and saw a librarian assistant planting flowers. Paolo, who often included her grandchildren in backyard gardening, saw a learning opportunity.

After getting permission from the building’s principal, she created a garden on the school grounds and began teaching students about gardening.

Granny’s Garden School now has a weekly half-hour program for first- through fourth-graders at Loveland City Schools’ elementary and primary buildings and early childhood center. This school year, a satellite program was created in Princeton City School District for kindergarten through fourth-grade students at Stewart Elementary.

During their weekly lessons, students explore nature trails and tend gardens of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Garden educators teach the youngsters about topics like planting, harvesting and healthy eating habits. The program also ties into classroom curriculum, with kids practicing measuring, graphing, observing insects and animals and learning about production and consumers.

“We have this holistic approach to helping kids get the most out of their elementary education,” said garden educator Connie Bateman.

As the programming has expanded, the cost to run the organization has increased, as well. That cost is equal to about $100 per student each year. Although Loveland and Princeton City Schools support Granny’s Garden by providing space and time for the program, neither district funds the organization.

In-kind donations — like printing services provided by Office Max at no cost — help offset some of costs, but it still takes an annual budget of about $160,000 for Granny’s Garden to serve approximately 2,000 kids.

“Our primary concern is paying our staff,” Paolo said.

The organization, which operates largely through the help of volunteers, has a part-time seasonal staff of about 12 people, she said.

The biggest challenge came when a foundation providing substantial support changed the conditions for dispensing funds to the organization. Funding from the foundation, which provides substantial support for Granny’s, is now offered as a matching donation of up to $40,000. The funds being matched must come from new donors.

“We are working … to find the right kind of people to work with us to develop a better funding plan that will make it more sustainable,” Paolo said.

While working on a long-term solution, she’s hoping to raise enough money to hold Granny’s Garden over a little longer.

With $20,000 already raised, the organization’s leaders hope to raise another $20,000 to maximize the foundation’s matching donation. Between contributions from the foundation and new donors, that would bring in $80,000 – about half of Granny’s annual budget.

Granny's Garden has several fundraisers coming up, including Granny's Pick-a-Bouquet Club, through which members can pick their own flowers, plant sales, and summer garden sponsorships.

The organization’s 13th annual plant sale, coming up May 7-8, is one of multiple opportunities to offer support and get something in return. Local growers will be selling vegetables, herbs and flowers at Loveland Primary School from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Plant experts also will be available to answer questions.

Other fundraisers include Granny’s Pick-a-Bouquet Club, through which members can pick their own flowers, and summer garden sponsorships.

“There’s just all these really cool ways that kids can start to learn what it means to be part of a community,” Faulhaber said.

To learn about more ways to support Granny’s Garden, or to make a donation, visit http://grannysgardenschool.org/.