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Brighter Futures garden project enhanced with TSET grant

SEPTEMBER 25, 2019:

A $500 Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) grant from the Wagoner County Health Department has allowed for expansion of the Lincoln Learning Garden at Brighter Futures’ Lincoln Enrichment Center in Wagoner.

The funds have allowed for additional garden beds and contents for the children to enjoy hands-on, outdoor learning.

“We’ve been working with the health department for over a year now as they have helped us develop wellness policies for the center and for Brighter Futures. This is an additional step in that direction as we grow with their support,” explained Dr. Suzanne Salichs with the Brighter Futures Foundation.

The garden has been tended to for the past two years. Lincoln Enrichment Center offers a garden curriculum for children to learn about gardening and pollinators while older students help with planting and weeding.

Staff members attended a Master Gardeners workshop this year to learn about pollinators and bring that information back to share with the students.

“We want to incorporate learning and hands-on in the garden. We want children to understand the steps involved, from planning, planting and caring for plants to harvesting the garden,” Dr. Salichs noted.

This summer, there was an emphasis on edibles and the students enjoyed harvesting vegetables every week and tasting the fruit of their labors. Brighter Futures students, volunteers and families were allowed to partake in the project.

They planted 10 to 12 different vegetables, which included a variety of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and okra. They also planted herbs such as mint, sage and basil.

“It’s been a hot, dry summer, but we still have some tomatoes and the flowers look amazing,” Dr. Salichs said. “As we get ready to put our fall garden in, we will grow kale, spinach, ornamentals and some flowering plants like mums.”

In all, the Lincoln Learning Garden features 12 flower beds, four wooden boxes and the center of the garden, which is close to 500 square feet in size.

Dr. Salichs said while Brighter Futures has applied for many other grants, private support for the garden in the Wagoner and surrounding community “has been amazing”. She assured the Foundation will continue to look for those financial opportunities.