It began with support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Now, using $2,000 set aside from its origins, Activate Southington, the new community-wide health and wellness initiative, has infused seven sectors of the community with mini-grants in an effort to make Southington one of Connecticut’s healthiest places to live.
From the two largest of $500 and $400 to five $250 grants, each award went to support physical activity and or healthy learning on a town, school or group. The checks were given away Tuesday evening in a special ceremony at the Strong Elementary School.
Garnering much excitement from attendees piled into the media center - where 'healthy' snacks such as apple slices and fresh veggies were provided - was not only the largest award, but one that is intended to be a product of and resource for the entire town: a Southington Community Garden.
The Open Space Committee secured a spot on Kennedy Lane near Town Hall along with donated supplies and labor. Residents will be able to enter a lottery system for their own plot.
Chairman Robert Berkmoes said the garden will offer training in organic gardening and make donations to local food banks.
The Thalberg Elementary School received $400 to expand an existing gardening program. The money will be used to implement raised beds to allow handicapped students access to participate.
“This is going to make it so much easier,” said teacher Linda Reilly, who invited the public to visit the school's garden where pupils are at work Tuesdays and Thursdays around noon.
Additional awards will go to support a new outdoor employee walking program at Mulberry Gardens, supplies and a fitness consultant for the 2-year-old Southington DayCare Providers, a daytime running program for first- and second-graders at Strong School, the Wayton Open tennis tournament for town residents, and a family walking club through the Family Resource Center.
“We’re so thrilled by the variety of things that are going on here,” said John Myers, executive director of the Southington YMCA and head of the joint public and private initiative.
Myers admitted that the grants might not be enough to sustain all seven programs, but is confident the money is enough to get the ball rolling.