by Jonah Holland, Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting brothers Braden and Charlie Dolbec, young adults who come to the Garden as part of the Garden’s Vocational Program to gain workforce development skills and job training. Braden and Charlie work in the Children’s Garden each week, along with their support staff, behavior coaches Jimmy and Crystal, and the Garden’s Youth Programs Developer Nicki. When I arrived they were assembling soil, planting trays and seeds into planting packets for school groups to take back to their classrooms to start their own gardens after visiting our Children’s Garden on a field trip. They have also worked on other projects like assembling “binoculars” for the Garden’s Young Buds programming. These are very special binoculars made out of yarn, toilet paper rolls, and double sided tape. Pre-schoolers who visit the Garden can narrow their focus to search for birds, plants and blooms, and while they are observing the gardens around them also collect leaves, seedpods and other treasures to decorate their binoculars. This day the Dolbecs were receiving a very special thank you note from the Garden’s Early Childhood Program Developer Kristin Mullen. Turns our Braden and Charlie assembled quite a few binoculars — over 600 to be exact. And the 3- and 4-year-olds from Richmond Public School Head Start really, really loved them. Here are the Garden we are grateful for partners like Braden and Charlie who learn from us and give back too. We wanted them to know how much we appreciate their work and a thank you note with photos of the kids enjoying the binoculars seemed like just the right thing. Based on the smiles I saw, I think they enjoy it too.
The Garden works with a variety of youth volunteers, vocational program, and service learning students. Braden and Charlie are in a home-based educational program through Beyond Behavior LLC. Their goals are to work on communication, social skills and behavior using ABA or Applied Behavior Analysis. We are happy we can be a part of the process of helping them learn and grow.