Here at Sandvik Publishing, home of Early Moments and Hooked on Phonics, we love coming to work every day. There’s one day, though, that we look forward to more than most, and that’s our employee volunteer day at Green Chimneys.
In their words, Green Chimneys is “a multi-faceted nonprofit organization helping young people to maximize their full potential by providing residential, educational, clinical and recreational services, in a safe and supportive environment that nurtures connections with their families, the community, animals and nature. Founded in 1947 and headquartered on a farm and wildlife center in Brewster, NY, Green Chimneys is recognized as a worldwide leader in animal-assisted therapy and educational activities for children with special needs. Green Chimneys services include an accredited special education school on two campuses; residential treatment center; nature-based therapeutic programs; community-based support for youth and families; and public education and recreation opportunities for people of all ages”.
The past few years we’ve been lucky to be assigned to work in the Green Chimneys Children’s Garden for our volunteer day. The programs that are run out of the beautiful garden are very impressive, and we got a glimpse into what it is like for students to attend this unique school as we worked alongside children in the garden this year. It is inspiring to watch the children go to work in this unique outdoor classroom, where they can learn horticulture while practicing life skills such as working together, starting and finishing a project, and gain confidence from the experience of nurturing living things to thrive and grow.
We had a great time getting our hands dirty in a few projects this year. We were tasked with digging a small ditch to run the length of the garden as a place for the irrigation system to live, out of the way of lawnmowers and weed whackers. This project improved the look of the main walkway running through the garden, as well as making life much easier for those tasked with mowing around the delicate tubing. We also tackled weeding throughout the garden, particularly in an area called the Labyrinth, which will soon be planted with many new varieties of plants, creating a fun feature for visitors to experience. Lastly, we back filled some bed borders that had begun to sink into the ground, leveling out the beds – a project we happily revisit each year as needed.
Overall, we had a productive and happy day in the sunshine, with our President, CFO and marketing team sweating it out wielding shovels for most of the day, our hardworking ladies from all departments working together to fight weeds and our Editorial Director reminding us all to take breaks and drink water in the heat. It was genuinely a great time – plus, the kitchen at Green Chimneys made us a gourmet lunch!
A highlight of our visit each and every year is that the Green Chimneys staff will offer to take us on a tour of the grounds, introducing us to new animals that have joined them throughout the year. Almost everyone who volunteered this year opted to take the tour, and the animals impressed us, as they always do. The children who attend the school are encouraged to get to know and care for the animals on the property and the relationships that result can prove to be extremely therapeutic. As our tour guide mentioned, we can learn a lot from animals about learning to live with differences, adapting to our environments, and respecting one another.
A few highlights this year were the camels, (giant!) pigs, donkeys and birds of prey.
In addition to visiting the Green Chimneys property once a year, we have also had the opportunity to work with them on an animal calendar that we’ve now published for a number of years.
Each month of the calendar features a different beloved member of their animal community. It’s a fun way to get to know the back story behind each animal and learn a bit about how the animals and children interact together. The project is a fun one, and we’re happy we’ve been able to lend a hand in getting it produced each year!
We’re thrilled to have an ongoing relationship with Green Chimneys, and invite you to check out their website if you’d like to learn more about their amazing programs. As for us, we’ll be back next year to dig in the dirt!