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Vinfen Awards Microgrant for Garden Project

alice-hayes-garden-smallVinfen’s Cambridge/Somerville Recovery Learning Center (CSRLC) was awarded a microgrant for a community garden project that brought together CSRLC residents, volunteers, people served, and staff to plant and care for a garden. Community Based Flexible Supports Rehab Specialist Joseph Spinale and Recovery Coordinators Greg Ronco, June Turner, Linda Raibert, and Audrey Hayward, partnered with 3-year CSRLC volunteer Bob Steinberg and Quanita “Q” to run the Garden Project.

Q, an individual served by Vinfen, participated in writing the successful grant proposal. She brainstormed with staff and others to create guidelines for the project, working hard to ensure the community they built was not only educational, but also a safe and comforting space for all who participated.

The project kicked off with a yard-cleaning day, where participants worked together to weed the soil and held a celebratory BBQ. Bob Steinberg taught staff and individuals how to mix soil and plant vegetables in grow-bags.

“Bob used his knowledge and vision for planting to make the project take place. [He] taught members how to plant and care for vegetables, and used his expertise to guide the project from day one,” said Joseph Spinale.

Once the vegetables were planted, staff, individuals served, and CSRLC members tended to the garden daily and created a watering schedule.

“You don’t see results in mental health right away, but with gardening, you have a short amount of time and you see results quickly,” Bob said, reflecting on the benefits gardening can have for those with psychiatric conditions.“People can learn how to be self-sufficient and set up schedules. You can’t waiver in your responsibility, which carries on into a person’s mental health care.”

Q echoed this sentiment. “The idea of caring for something, working to keep it alive, helped keep me alive,” she said. “It was such a great wonder to watch it happen, and to be able to say, ‘I contributed to keeping that plant alive and help it grow.’”

The garden also presented opportunities for Recovery Coordinators to bring people from their teams to visit and learn about the gardening process and help out with watering shifts.

During the growing season, staff and individuals participated in garden-related activities including a scavenger hunt and walks to the park. The Garden Project’s big culminating event, Tomato Fest, was held on Wednesday, September 28. Tomato Fest brought together 20 individuals and RLC staff who prepared food with the tomatoes and peppers from the garden. Event-goers enjoyed learning how to make salsa, fried green tomatoes, and pasta sauce from scratch. The room was appropriately decorated with fact sheets on the nutritional value of tomatoes and the ingredients of the prepared food.

This project was made possible by you, and all those who support runners in Vinfen’s Run-4-Life! or donate to the Lamson Health and Wellness Fund. Vinfen’s Health and Wellness Microgrant Committee, made up of our staff, determines how these funds can be used to support the health and wellness of those we serve.

To support programs like the Garden Project, please visit