The title of this article is actually the name of a course offered through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in Waterbury which is located on the UConn Waterbury campus. The Bernard Osher Foundation offers grants and endowments to colleges, universities and other non-profits in four specific program areas – one of which is ‘lifelong learning institutes for seasoned adults (age 50 and older).’
At present there are 124 OLLI programs found on the campuses of colleges and universities from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska. Each provides non-credit courses and activities specifically developed for adults aged 50 or older who are interested in learning for the joy of learning. OLLI members at each location develop their course offerings and instructors. The Waterbury OLLI offers more than 60 courses in a variety of areas: Art, Genealogy, History, Literature, Music, Philosophy and more.
The Greening of Waterbury project began in 2013 with the goal to provide local produce for the food-insecure residents of Waterbury and surrounding areas. Course creator and instructor, Nunzio DeFilippis, an avid gardener-instructor, developed the program when his wife, Daisy Coco DeFillippis, became President of Naugatuck Valley Community College and they moved from New York. Nunzio was looking to get involved in his new home and set about developing this deeply rewarding experience in urban gardening.
The project is based at Fulton Park in Waterbury, where OLLI students learn about sustainable ecologically sound soil preparation, fertilizer and pesticide techniques, planting, growing viable seedlings, and raised-bed gardening techniques. Students participate in every aspect of planting to harvest, and learn about urban sustainable production of fruits and vegetables. The produce is transported by students to various food pantries and soup kitchens in the area. Approximately 20,000 pounds of produce is distributed each year. On cooking day, students and faculty from Naugatuck Valley Community College join OLLI students to clean vegetables and cook lunch at the local soup kitchen.
CT Hort members Margaret and George Pohorilak joined the Fulton Park Greening of Waterbury group four years ago. From day one it became obvious to them that becoming involved with this group and its goals would be a remarkable experience. They feel the garden is more than just a group. Rather, it is a community in the truest sense of the word—a community of dedicated avid gardeners with a mission, to provide food for those who do not have it. Both agree that it is one thing to work your small garden at home; it is altogether another experience to help tend to almost one hundred 30-foot raised beds. Words that come to mind are team work and camaraderie. The joy of harvesting and loading scores of boxes of fresh produce for the delivery to food pantries and soup kitchens has been very satisfying to the Pohorilaks.
Each of us has learned about gardening, working together and helping others. There has been a palpable esprit d’corps among the volunteers while we tackled some of the problems that farmers face daily. Planting everything from seed was a bit challenging but made the sense of triumph all the sweeter.”—Nunzio DeFillippis notes after the first harvest