Dennis Hanagan —
Richard Bills of the Cabbagetown area hopes 30 volunteers will join him this year as he teaches Downtown schoolchildren to grow food in the Green Thumbs Growing Kids program.
Bills will help children learn gardening at Lord Dufferin, Spruce Court, Rose and Winchester schools. He needs volunteers to help with children and youth programs, office administration, special events and general gardening. Volunteers don’t need special skills; they’ll be trained.
Green Thumbs children can pass on what they learn to their parents so they can grow food to supplement their families’ meals. “The overall hope is the parents will see that if the kids can do it then we should be able to do it,” says Bills.
“There are healthy alternatives to eating at [burger joints] … you can feed your family for $10 with vegetables and the nutrients and the vitamins,” says Bills.
Bills is in his second year of the Community Worker Program at George Brown College. It took a placement in a mountainous region of Cuba for him to realize he wanted to work with children. Until then, he wanted to work with the homeless, addicts and people with mental health issues.
In Cuba he taught children how to play with everyday items found around their poor communities.
“They don’t have the soccer equipment, they don’t have the baseball equipment … so (we) teach them other ways to play like relay races, tug-o-wars. It was one of those things where I was able to stand back and get much enjoyment watching the kids interact,” said Bills.
He’s hoping more and more community gardens will spring up in Downtown neighbourhoods. “Our thing is to encourage the kids and their families to come out to the gardens. Not only are you producing fruits and vegetables but you’re out there meeting other people … you’re more community-engaged,” said Bills.
To learn more about Cabbagetown-based GTGK and to volunteer visit greenthumbsto.org.