Daily Pilot - Finding ways to grow together
Costa Mesa, CA, July 1, 2001 —Costa Mesa resident is bringing children and senior close over a bit of a garden.
They came to plant flowers and vegetables, but something else caught their attention first.
“I found a cocoon,” yelled Gary Ottens, a 9-year-old member of the Costa Mesa Goat Hill Go-Getters 4-H Club.
“Let me see, let me see,” said 5-year Phillip Allevato, barely able to peak over the rim of the raised flower bed.
Together with five other children, the two boys had come Tuesday to Costa Mesa’s Silverado Senior Living home for people with Alzheimer’s disease to garden with residents.
They are participating in a program called Growing Together, which was created by Costa Mesa resident Susan Vocke as part of a leadership course she’s taking.
“It’s a project to celebrate self-esteem with children and older adults,” Vocke said. “To see how children interact with the elderly is just awesome.”
Vocke used to own retirement homes in the city. Her interest in working with seniors, as well as her grandchildren, inspired her to create the program, she said.
So far, she’s also brought kids to five homes in Huntington Beach and one in Los Angeles Habra. Eventually, she hopes to set up intergenerational gardening groups in every city in Orange County, she said.
Silverado resident Joan Hoskins said she liked the idea. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I think it’s great. The children get a kick out of it and the residents too.” Fellow resident Cecil Lynch agreed.
The kids “are pretty good at it,” he said; “It’s a lot of fun. When you’re helping young people, it turns out to be a pretty good thing.”
Adam Allevato, 8, Phillip’s older brother, said his reasons for participating were simple.
“I’m doing this because it’s nice to people to do this,” he said.
Like the other kids, Adam gets taught at home. But he said he was on a vacation at the moment and therefore did the gardening in his free time. He added that he did a little bit of gardening at home as well.
“But my mom does most of it,” he said.
Gary, who’d found the cocoon earlier on, was already much more of a pro.
He grown strawberries, sunflowers, corn and tomatoes, and said he’ll enter a purple bell pepper, celery and chilies in the Orange County Fair today.