ROCKFORD, Illinois—Mercyhealth has proudly partnered with West Middle School and several local community organizations to create a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) + SEL (Safety, Enjoyment, Learning) Community Garden that will serve as a project-based learning environment at West Middle School.
A community garden was initially developed as part of a neighborhood block grant project initiated by Roosevelt United Neighbors and has been situated in a parking lot at Javon Bea Hospital–Rockton since 2015. A group of dedicated teachers from West Middle School recently approached Mercyhealth about the possibility of relocating the garden structures to the school for this unique community education project.
Today the garden beds were relocated to West Middle School, where they will soon be transformed into a produce garden that will provide engaging, hands-on learning for West Middle School students. Aside from the valuable educational opportunities the garden will provide, another goal of the project is to address the issue of access to fresh food for West Middle School students, their families, and surrounding neighborhoods in the community. Produce harvested from the garden will be used to support the mission of the food bank operated by Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.
In addition to donating the garden beds, Mercyhealth made a financial donation to the project to help fund the purchasing of soil, seeds and gardening tools.
“We were delighted to do our part to make this educational opportunity a reality,” said Javon Bea, President/CEO of Mercyhealth. “We were impressed with the proposal for this project from the teachers at West Middle School, and we admire and share their passion for their students and our community.”
Additional support for the project is being provided by Northwest United Neighbors, University of Illinois Extension (Winnebago), Youth Build, and Voices of Inspiration.
About Mercyhealth: Mercyhealth is a multi-regional health system with more than 700 employed physician partners, seven hospitals and 85 primary and specialty care locations serving 55 northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin communities. Mercyhealth’s over 7,000 employee/partners care for over 2.4 million patient visits each year. As the top vertically integrated health care provider, they continuously work with a passion for making lives better for the people, families and communities they serve.