Wendell Smith Elementary to benefit from $2M donation from Wells Fargo

School becomes stage for Wells Fargo to pledge to build Learning Gardens in schools across America

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WELLS FARGO VOLUNTEERS supervise students as they tend their Learning Garden.

Crusader staff report

The $2 million check was too big to mail.

Excitement was in the air, Tuesday, May 30 when Wells Fargo announced its massive donation to The Kitchen Community which sponsors gardening efforts at Wendell Smith Elementary School a well as other schools around the country, where educators are stepping up efforts to teach students about farming healthy vegetables.

Fresh from Memorial Day weekend, executives from the bank presented the two million dollar check to The Kitchen Community to help support Wendell Smith Elementary’s new outdoor classroom, which many call a Learning Garden.

Learning gardens are outdoor classrooms. They are installed in underserved schools across the nation. They are made up of modular, raised beds and include seating and shade. Attractive places to teach, the garden beds are 19 inches tall and the perfect height for children to be at eye level with plants.

The project is being led by The Kitchen Community, an organization that builds vegetable gardens, and outdoor classrooms. Wendell Smith Elementary is one of 142 schools in Chicago to be granted a Learning Garden from The Kitchen Community.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Andrew Ruehl, community affairs representative, Wells Fargo; Danny Sweeney, community development representative, Wells Fargo Jim Heinz, executive vice president, head of U.S. Corporate Banking, Wells Fargo; Mike Biver, development manager, The Kitchen Community; Madeleine Nelson, director of advancement, The Kitchen Community; Corenna Roozeboom, garden dducator, The Kitchen Community; Sam Koentopp, program manager, The Kitchen Community; Loretta Kujawa, business initiatives consultant, Wells Fargo.

Wendell Smith Elementary was selected as one of the recipients to benefit from the two million dollar donation.

Students, teachers and Chicago Public School administrators were on hand to celebrate the big announcement.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Wells Fargo to bring more Learning Gardens to kids across America,” said Tighe Hutchins, National Director of The Kitchen Community. “The two million dollar commitment from Wells Fargo is a tremendous generous gift that will impact hundreds of thousands of kids in underserved areas of the country. We’ll be able to build more Learning Gardens that connect kids to real food, the natural world, and teach them about a key environment issue of our time: where their food comes from.”

Ashley Grosh, vice president and environmental philanthropy manager at Wells Fargo, said “We are truly honored to support and partner with an organization like The Kitchen Community, that is helping to integrate environmental education through healthy eating and local food systems to our youth.

The Kitchen Community’s program is already having a huge impact and we are excited to work alongside them to reach even more students and communities. The experience these students gain through the Learning Garden program will instill behaviors they carry throughout their lives.”

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