Gillis garden going big

A simple gardening project that began with several raised soil beds and a group of committed youths is now looking to raise the bar.

Started as a stress reliever for the kids at Gillis, a Cornerstones of Care campus for at-risk children, the garden project has grown over the last 5 years into a full-fledged farm. Located inside its Wornall campus, the few original soil beds have now expanded to several acres of crop producing land.

With the expansion has come new dreams, as well as a new initiative — Strong Roots. Strong Youth. This newest project aims to develop a series of experiential, hands-on, outdoor educational opportunities focused on community empowerment and engagement.

"This program, in partnership with Cultivate KC, Kansas City Community Gardens, and Giving Grove, promotes and teaches mind, body, community and environmental health to the children and youth in our care," states the Cornerstones of Care website.

"Not only does it build resiliency and accountability, but it teaches our kids healthy living skills that benefit them and their communities for years to come."

The hope is that through an expanded farm project, the kids will develop a sense of belonging, pride and long-lasting relationships. And let's not forget the bounty of fresh veggies and fruits they'll be supplying for their families as well as others in the community.

"Our goal for these programs is to address the ongoing community need for fresh produce, while providing an educational and entrepreneurial outlet for the children and youth in our care."

For information on how to support the Strong Roots. Strong Youth. initiative, click here. If you wish to donate to the program, please visit their crowdsourcing page here.