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Founders Fund Current Winner

2020 Founders Fund Winner

Permaculture Sanctuary: Promoting Trauma Resilience Through Regenerative Gardening at Crossnore School & Children’s Home in Winston-Salem

Proposed by Twin City Garden Club, Zone VII
Seconded by French Broad River Garden Club, Zone VII

Twin City Garden Club (TCGC) has partnered with Crossnore School & Children’s Home to create a permaculture food and sensory forest for developing trauma resiliency. This garden sanctuary, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on a 212- acre urban farm, brings the children it serves and the community together by restoring souls through soil. Crossnore’s campus houses 45 foster children and serves over 450 daily through Kingswood alternative public school, outpatient therapeutic services, Youth in Transition, soft skills job placement, and after-school programs. Children and youth interact with the farm every day through Crossnore’s holistic curriculum. 

TCGC members have a deep connection to the Children’s Home, which was established in 1909 and merged with Crossnore School in 2017. Members have volunteered and given financial support, and recently TCGC donated $20,000 to Crossnore’s Miracle Grounds Farm. After lengthy planning, in June 2019 TCGC broke ground on a quarter-acre, interactive garden where the children and the community can taste, smell, touch, and hear nature. With Crossnore staff, members have spent countless hours co-designing, co-creating, and working to establish the garden, which aims to be a self-sustaining place where children can heal by experiencing nature. Through its cutting-edge curriculum, Crossnore’s ideal environment supports techniques to gain power over painful pasts through education, art, and soil therapy.

The Founders Fund grant will be used to: enhance the garden with further plant varieties and soil enrichment for growing nutrient-dense food; install a thoughtful irrigation system incorporating hand-watering, rainwater collection, and a natural stone water feature for interactive play; and, finally, expand outreach for education and art programs to connect children, families, and community to permaculture principles. The garden will become a model for establishing other self-sustaining gardens in low-income neighborhoods and public schools throughout the city. A permaculture edible and sensory landscape model incorporates regenerative agriculture from the root zone building up to the tree canopy, each providing needed nutrients for the other. Native paw paw, plum, fig, apple and persimmon trees, blueberries, mulberries, goji berries, wild strawberries, and various pollinators are examples of plants in the sanctuary. The food forest will provide a means for children to connect to soil, food, and life cycles, allowing Crossnore therapists to draw metaphors to trauma cycles, develop trauma resilience, and create hope for flourishing futures. If a garden can endure extreme weather cycles and still thrive, then so can the children.

The garden sanctuary model mirrors the healing process and a larger community vision of resilience, regeneration, growth, progress, and sustainability, reflecting the GCA’s priorities to seed the future and bridge communities. The grant will elevate the garden infrastructure and ensure its impactful and far-reaching effects. 

Two runners-up were granted $10,000 each by the GCA. Perennial Planters Garden Club, in Rhode Island, will use the funds to purchase a van, the CheerMobile, to distribute 30,000 flowers per year to hospitals, shelters, recovery centers, at-risk youth, and seniors. Garden Club of Madison in New Jersey, will use the grant to sponsor the Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) and Rutgers University to expand the transformational school rain garden program, established in Paterson, NJ in 2017 through GSWA’s hands-on environmental education programming.

The Founders Fund was established in 1934 to provide monetary awards to projects proposed by GCA member clubs. The award initially was endowed in memory of the GCA’s first president, Elizabeth Price Martin (Mrs. J. Willis) of Philadelphia, who served from 1913-20. Generous gifts from clubs and individuals since have augmented the fund.

The first award of $700 was presented in 1936 for English-language publication of the oldest known American herbal, the 1552 Badianus Manuscript, by Johns Hopkins Press. Since then, two-hundred seventy-two Founders Fund winners and runners-up have received more than $1.5 million to save thousands of acres of land and innumerable trees, restore historic landmarks, establish civic plantings, and conduct research and educational projects across the country.


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You may download the Word Document versions of the GCA's official press release for each of these projects below: