Grantee Blog 2020

Looking for an Upside (When Everything is Upside Down)

We started Fall immersed in¬†running¬†full day programs for students starting the school year with remote learning. It was a steep learning curve, but we soon got the hang of¬†helping our students¬†sign in and out of Zoom calls,¬†navigate¬†SeeSaw¬†and Google classroom and managing the variety of situations that came up ‚Ästdevice chargers left at¬†home, forgotten¬†passwords,¬†last minute schedule changes by the teachers. We figured¬†that it was all bearable for the short term because at least we¬†would be¬†returning¬†to inperson school¬†in the¬†A/B Hybrid¬†model¬†on November 9.¬†We were¬†looking forward to¬†engaging¬†with the students with handson garden¬†activities and lessons¬†as part of the grant.¬†¬†

In anticipation of the return to school we planned a Back to School Garden Clean Up event on October 29 to plant some garlic bulbs. Plans for a COVID-19 appropriate Halloween and Trick or Treating were in full swing for the St. Cloud neighborhood, so we figured families would be happy to come out to garden with us. A number of families RSVPed, however the remnants of Hurricane Zeta coming up the East Coast rained on our gardening parade.  

Cherie and I were able to get out in a small break in the weather to complete the clean up and to plant the garlic and onion bulbs to harvest in the Spring. It can be challenging to stay positive during these unprecedented times, when the best made plans are often turned upside down. However, the more weeding I did the more my mood lifted. It felt right to be planting garlic as the community around us put the finishing touches to their plans to safely Trick or Treat. At least Halloween was going ahead! 

On November 5th, just 4 days from the start of hybrid programs and with rising COVID-19 cases in the community and county, the West Orange School District, in consultation with the district physician and local public health and emergency management authorities, announced that they were continuing with remote learning. We understood the decisionmaking process but it was definitely a disappointment.  


Once again we find ourselves looking for the next move. We will revisit our plans and assumptions this Winter and make revisions so that we are ready for the Spring. I’m already looking forward to harvesting the garlic and sharing its considerable benefits and medicinal properties as a source of manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin B6, as well as a boost to the immune system to prevent the common cold. Eat your veggies and stay healthy this winter! 

About the Grantee

West Essex YMCA

The West Essex YMCA, a Branch of the Metro YMCA of the Oranges, is a mission driven organization and trusted community partner in youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Y has been serving the needs of the community for over 50 years, providing a wide variety of activities and programs in an environment welcoming all.