Bloom with Grace
Grace is an amazing high school student, who is passionate about being kind and growing her own food to live a healthy and sustainable life. Her philosophy is; “Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace!” What a remarkable teenager!
An Interview with an Outstanding GiGi’s Volunteer Grace
How did you learn about GiGi’s?
After moving to Annapolis in 2018, I saw a post on Instagram from GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis. I started following the activities and events at GiGi’s Playhouse and then decided to reach out to the Site Coordinator, Judy Co, to see how to begin volunteering.
I started volunteering on Saturdays at the LMNOP classes for kids 0-3 years old. I loved interacting with the littles every weekend. This led to my involvement in the Strider bike riding class for children 3-6 years old throughout the Summer of 2019. I was an assistant lead for the class and was responsible for building all the new bikes for the class. Strider bikes are balance bikes without pedals, so it gave the kids an opportunity to learn the motion of riding a bike without having to fully balance on it. It was so amazing to see their progress from the first class to the last class! We had 7 in attendance and by the end of the 4 week course they were rolling!
I also volunteered at the GiGi’s Thrive gymnastics class.
During the 2020-2021 calendar year I applied and was chosen to be a part of the GiGi’s Youth Board. We had monthly Zoom meetings with the Youth Board Leader, Sarah Brown, during the year of the COVID pandemic. We planned and conducted an Online Trivia night as a fundraiser for the Playhouse generating over $1,100.00 in funds to support GiGi’s free programs.
While GiGi’s programs were virtual, I started attending TeenTastic online every week, which is a meetup group for teens to gain social skills with peers and adult leaders. Each week had a different theme. It was fun interacting online during a time when none of us could meet in person.
At Christmas I volunteered at GiGi’s Santa drive thru, socially-distanced spreading holiday cheer!
In Spring of 2021, I proposed a plan to the Site Coordinator, Ms. Co, to create my own class “Bloom with Grace” at the Playhouse. My idea was to teach small groups how to plant and grow their own Pizza Garden. In this portable take-home garden each participant would plant a tomato, basil, and oregano garden to use throughout the summer to top their own homemade pizzas. During the one hour class, we discussed how tomatoes grow and how to care for the plants. They all left with written instructions on how to take care of their gardens and how to make pizza dough. The one hour class was conducted on three consecutive Saturdays in May reaching participants. We all had fun playing in the dirt and planting gardens together. I received a lot of positive feedback from all the participants and their parents.
In order to raise funds for this class, I created sunflower seed packs from sunflowers I had grown the year before. I sold each packet for $3.00 and all the proceeds went towards funding my class. I started all the tomato plants from seed in my basement and nurtured the plants. I tried to grow basil and oregano from seed, but was unsuccessful, so I used the funds I raised to buy plants, dirt and containers. My sunflower seed fundraiser raised $100 for me to conduct the class – requiring no funding from GiGi’s.
Why do you volunteer at GiGi’s?
GiGi’s Playhouse is my chosen outlet to volunteer at because I thrive on working with people of different abilities. It is fulfilling and rewarding to teach others and watch them have fun and achieve new skills. I get to smile and laugh a lot with all the participants.
It has also allowed my worlds to be integrated, between my school, job and volunteer activities At my high school, Broadneck, I participated in “Best Buddies” where several of the high school members also attend activities at the Playhouse. In my job at Bitty and Beau’s Coffee Shop, we hire persons with disabilities. Several of our employees also attend GiGi’s Playhouse programs. So for me, it has my three worlds colliding and I love it. I get to see members in lots of different capacities and seeing them all learning and achieving new skills makes me so inspired.
What is your favorite memory of volunteering?
My favorite memory is from our first “Bloom with Grace” Pizza Garden class. All six of the girls in the class were so excited to have their own gardens. They took such pride in saying that it was ‘their garden’ and were so excited to see it grow. That is exactly the feeling I wanted to pass on to them. Then, the next day at work, one of the participants, Jaime, was at work at the Coffee Shop with me and all we could talk about was the garden.
Another of my favorite memories at GiGi’s was at the bike riding class. By the third class, all the kids were acquainted with each other and with me. One little boy, Jeremiah, came in, saw me, and ran right over to give me a big hug! His hugs made me so happy.
What impact has GiGi’s had on you?
GiGi’s is a place that I have witnessed so many people grow because it gives them the opportunity to thrive! I love that I get to be a part of making a difference in these peoples’ lives. GiGi’s provides hope to us all.
How did you get involved in gardening?
We have always had a garden in some form, but the pandemic really flamed my passion. My garden gave me a place to ‘go’ everyday. It always had some new surprise waiting for me. It’s become a huge hobby for me and my family. It has kept us focused and engaged with each other throughout the pandemic and has been a great diversion during this time.
Can you tell us about the “Bloom with Grace” seeds?
Last Summer I grew sunflowers in my front yard. They got really big and everyone commented on how pretty they were. Large, tall sunflower heads produce a lot of seeds, so when they had finished blooming I dried out the sunflower heads so that they would be ready to use this Spring. With the help of my Mom and cousin Teagan, I created seed packs from recycled brown grocery bags and designed my own logo for the labels. By creating these seed packs as a fundraiser it helped me share my passion of gardening with others, and I couldn’t think of a better place than GiGi’s Playhouse to offer classes. I shared my passion project with my teachers at my high school and they purchased seed packets along with them being for sale at GiGi’s Playhouse. I generated $100 in sales.
The symbolic sunflower is associated with beauty, delight, hope, joy, happiness, vitality, positivism and energy. Sunflowers also represent loyalty and unconditional friendship. This surely describes GiGi’s volunteer Grace. We are grateful for you and your true friendship with GiGi’s Playhouse.