Andrea Fonte Weaver and Betsy Emberley, President of the Friends of the Ashland Public Library, met the first day of the MetroWest Leadership Academy. Andrea shared about the grant opportunity for a Community Intergenerational Leadership Team training on a Friday afternoon. By Tuesday of the following week, Betsy had enlisted Kim Kotob of the Ashland Elder Services and submitted letters of support for the grant. They convened a Leadership Team that included members of:
- Ashland Business Association
- Ashland Center for Entrepreneurship
- Ashland Elder Services
- Ashland Garden Club
- Ashland Historical Society
- Ashland Lions Club
- Decisions at Every Turn (promoting healthy choices for teens)
- Friends of the Ashland Public Library
- Ashland Public Schools Administration
- Ashland Recreation Department
- Ashland Youth & Family Services
At the day-long training, the group decided to divide into two teams to initiate multiple programs.
One team, led by the recreation director and garden club members, planned for a six-session Pollinator Garden for preschoolers and older gardeners. Using the Recipe for Intergenerational Success, themes for the sessions were chosen with appropriate activities. In conjunction, to try and attract new “adult” members to the garden club, a guest lecture was held at the senior center. What resulted was blossoming raised-garden beds outside the community center – and wonderful relationships between some of Ashland’s oldest and youngest gardeners. A final Garden Party was held with the gardeners, their family members and distinguished guests including the town manager. They plan to continue the program this year.
The second team decided to develop an oral history project to record some of Ashland’s stories. Students from several high school activity clubs, including “Breaking the Barriers,” recorded interviews with older residents. The excitement on the day the interviews took place was electrifying – so many participants realized the commonalities we share as people, regardless of age.
Out of this collaboration came a town-wide World Café in May where pairs of adults and youth facilitated small group discussions about unity and inclusion leading to a series of additional events utilizing the same format and paired table hosts this fall to provide the opportunity to have conversations regarding other important community topics.
The Team is continuing to meet to plan more opportunities for intergenerational engagement. Possibilities include holding a second round of interviews with older residents; they are continuing to hold Courageous Conversations on difficult topics such as love, inclusion, and trust. They are also looking into starting a cooking program, putting on a IG concert and as well as implementing a discussion group called “Great Discussions: America’s largest discussion program on world affairs, the list of ideas is long.
Kudos to Ashland for breaking down the barriers between people of different ages and planting seeds of compassion and joy!