Erie, PA (January 8, 2024) – Barber National Institute community garden collaboration will be recognized during the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Everyday Lives conference January 9-11 in Hershey. Barber National Institute was selected through a competitive statewide submission process focusing on innovative program models that encourage healthy lifestyle habits among individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
“For the past two years, Erie Insurance has donated a plot of land on East 5th Street between German and Parade in Erie. Penn State Master Gardeners facilitate the annual plans for the garden. They also provide plants, seeds, tools and education. The garden has approximately 60 raised beds plus a corn field, pumpkin field, orchard and pollinating perennial garden,” said Barber National Institute Chief Officer of Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Day Services Carolyn Kontis.
Barber National Institute’s Club Erie program meets in the area from May through October with Penn State Master Gardener Mike Bailey for an educational lesson and assistance with the next steps in the process of the garden.
Club Erie is a community-based service designed to help adults with intellectual disabilities acquire, maintain and improve skills while accessing their community, building friendships and having fun. The caring and energetic staff at Club Erie works with adults either individually or in small groups to support them in achieving goals identified in their Individual Supports Plan (ISP) such as: participating in activities of interest, learning skills, volunteering or increasing socialization skills through experiences with others.
“Individuals maintain 10 of 60 beds. They also maintain pumpkin, corn, sunflower, potato and pollinating gardens. The individuals are very involved in choosing what they want to plant for the season. They all get an opportunity to plant their favorite vegetables. During the summer, individuals take turns watering the garden beds daily. They work from start to finish preparing, planting, maintaining, harvesting and cleaning the beds for the winter. They harvest and use all that is grown. This year, they also started a seed library from the harvest,” said Kontis.
Barber National Institute poster “Digging into Healthier Lives” was selected among 10 posters to be featured at the state-wide symposium. The poster centers around nutrition education plus the physical and mental health benefits individuals receive from gardening. Barber National Institute also has been invited to host one of two conference breakout sessions and share the innovative program model with conference attendees.
About Barber National Institute
Barber National Institute, a non-profit organization, provides children and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities, and behavioral health challenges and their families the education, support, and resources needed to be self-reliant, independent, and valued members of their community. In addition, we provide the professionals who serve them with world-class education and training. Its Elizabeth Lee Black School is a nationally recognized school of excellence that serves a very diverse group of learners.
The Barber National Institute serves more than 5,400 individuals statewide with offices in Erie County, Pittsburgh, Somerset, Bedford and Philadelphia, PA. The Barber National Institute employs over 2,800 people.