Sowing the seeds of community involvement

Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee expands seedling project to include seniors

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Reta Brubacher and Ernie Reinhart took part in the TWEEC seedling program this year at Chartwell Retirement Residences in Elmira. [FAISAL ALI / The Observer]

The Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC) has expanded its annual seedling program to include a new demographic. The Seedlings for Classrooms project, which has been running since 2013, is now joined this year by the Seedlings for Seniors, which brings the community’s venerable population into the greening effort.
“A society is great when old men plant trees under whose shade they will never sit,” goes the old saying, and it is with that bit of wisdom in mind that TWEEC decided to expand the seedlings program to include seniors.

“We kind of had a rethink of the vision for our community tree nursery project and felt really that education is a big part of it, and we thought we’d just include another group in the picture,” said John Mathers, who runs the organization’s nursery project.
Each year, TWEEC hands out hundreds of seeds to classrooms across the township. The seeds come with kits containing seed cells and mulch for the students to properly plant and care for the trees in their first few months of life, before they’re transplanted to the community nursery.

“The idea is to instill a kind of environmental stewardship and responsibility [in participants],” explained Mathers. “The focus started with youth: If we’re going to change the thinking, we’ve got to start with the people who are going to make a difference in the years to come, so the idea was to educate on the importance of trees to the environment.”
This year, residents from both the Chartwell Retirement Residences and Barnswallow Place Care Community are joining in the project. Mathers explains that besides wanting to get more people involved in the project, they were hoping the seniors could help with some of the more delicate or trickier plants to take care of.

“The students have a little bit of trouble with some of the more finicky species. So smaller seeds, seeds that require maybe just a little bit more care to get them germinated and going,” said Mathers. “So we’ve kind of arrived at the fact that we’re going to keep the nice, easy seeds going to the schools.

“We can also fairly well ensure that they will germinate, which is good for the kids. We want to make sure the kids have a good experience with this, so we want to make sure that their seedlings actually make it,” he added.

The seedlings started by the seniors will bring beautiful blooms.

A total of 2,600 seeds were handed out this year, with 1,125 going to the schools and the remainder going to the seniors and other volunteers with TWEEC. Even if only about 1,900 of the seedlings successfully germinate, Mathers says that it will still mean a lot of work transplanting the saplings into their new homes at the nursery.

To that end, TWEEC are looking for volunteers to take part in their big transplanting day, which is targeted for May 26. Anyone interested in taking part in the transplant, or in other aspects of TWEEC, is encouraged to reach out to Ann Roberts at the Township of Woolwich (aroberts@woolwich.ca) to learn how they can help.

Ultimately, it’s certainly for a common good as, after a few years in the nursery, the trees eventually find a permanent home as part of the foliage, somewhere in the community.