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Hampstead pupils, McDaniel students plant a garden at the Residences


With the North Carroll High School marching band leading them, 103 Hampstead Elementary third-graders walked around the building, carrying paper and plastic cups with plants sprouting out of them.

Clad in gray T-shirts with "Take Pride in America Crew" written in red, white and blue lettering, the pupils came to the Residences at the Hampstead School bearing gifts.

For a month, the third-graders had used seeds provided by the America the Beautiful Fund to grow cucumbers, corn, zucchini, kale and other vegetables to plant at the Residences at the Hampstead School, a senior living facility that had once been the local elementary school.

Their plants and the day's proceedings represented just one portion of a project created by McDaniel College students to work with and improve the lives of the residents, while instilling a sense of togetherness and service in the community.

"It's just very heartening for me to see everyone come together for this," said Deborah Goff, 41, of Westminster, one of the McDaniel students involved in the project.

Four students from McDaniel instructor James Corbin's social welfare policy class - Goff, Amy Sites, Krystal Morea and Jessica Van - created numerous volunteer activities for working with senior citizens.

Through McDaniel's partnership with Interfaith Housing Alliance - a Frederick-based organization that works to provide affordable housing and is part of a partnership that owns the Hampstead School - the students set up their programs for the residents, including the vegetable garden, a walking club, poetry sessions, a seminar on using e-mail, a physical fitness class and an Adopt-a-Grandparent day.

The Adopt-a-Grandparent idea was the basis for involving the Hampstead third-graders, but their participation transformed the garden into a larger project, Goff said.

"Any time you have a school and a community partnership, learning goes on," said Teresa McCulloh, a third-grade teacher at Hampstead Elementary.

"They were excited, and they were looking to get their hands in that dirt. It was a take-off of what they had been learning with the plant unit, and they could see what they were a part of," she said.

Third-grader Eric Fogle said he enjoyed the project.

"It was fun, and it didn't take a lot of work," said Eric, 9, of Hampstead. "The lima beans grew really quick."

As the children dug holes in the soil at the senior community to plant their vegetables, some of the building's residents watched from under a tent and from across the parking lot. Later, the pupils toured the facility and performed short plays for the residents.

"This is wonderful," said Wilma Cook, 63, a tenant at the senior community for six months. "It's a nice way to bring the community and the Hampstead School together. It's so nice to see different generations."

After the ceremony concluded, McCulloh entered a suite, formerly the classroom where she taught from 1984 to 1986.

Two decades ago, the Hampstead School closed and moved its classes to a new facility. But now, McCulloh and a new batch of pupils returned to start a relationship with the building's new occupants.

The combined efforts of the third-graders and the McDaniel students provided seeds for the community, and together they would see their work bloom, said Henry Reiff, master of ceremonies and McDaniel's associate dean of academic affairs.

"This garden brings so much," Reiff said. "It brings so much to the residents here. It brings so much to the community. It brings a kind of beauty. It brings sustenance. It brings life."

Take Pride in America is "a national partnership established by the U.S. Department of the Interior that aims to engage, support and recognize volunteers who work to improve our public parks, forests, grasslands, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, local playgrounds and other recreation areas," according to its Web site.

During the ceremony, Michelle Cangelosi, executive director of Take Pride in America, presented awards to the third-graders, the senior community and McDaniel's social work department, as well as a plaque for Hampstead Elementary.

"It's an outstanding example of collaboration," Cangelosi said. "There are individual contributions making it successful, not only a successful event, but something long-standing for the community."

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