Community support, new neighbors, lead to new garden and chicken coop for Greenville County students with disabilities

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This article was published on WYFF4 by Gabrielle Komorowski on June 1, 2021.

Leadership Greenville Class 47 selected the partnership between West Greenville School (WGS) and the Truist Culinary and Hospitality Innovation Center (CHI) as one of their 2020-21 class projects, supporting the effort with donations that allow creation of a sustainable garden and providing funding for the launch of a culinary curriculum that will enable WGS students to learn marketable job skills.

The $9,200 donation supports a training curriculum in the culinary arts that begins in September. WGS students with an interest in agriculture and culinary skills, representing nearly a third of the school’s total enrollment, will be involved. The nine-month program will teach everything from knife skills to soups, sauces, and grilling. With completion of the hands-on program taught at CHI by a professional chef instructor, students will qualify for positions including pantry cook, banquet prep cook, line cook, and more.

“We greatly appreciate Leadership Greenville Class 47 for seeing the value in this important partnership,” said Alan Scheidhauer, director of operations at the Truist Culinary and Hospitality Innovation Center. “There are opportunities for everyone in the culinary and hospitality field, and this program will provide a pathway to success for many students who will learn the skills needed to enter strong careers.”

The Leadership Greenville class also solicited donations including soil, plants, seeds, chickens and supplies, irrigation materials, gardening tools and more to allow the creation of a sustainable garden and chicken coop. The new garden will provide hands-on, sustainable agriculture and food preparation education to WGS students. Businesses providing gifts-in-kind for the project included C.A. Carter, Tractor Supply, Lowe’s, Langston Construction, Greenville Triumph, Parks Hospitality Group, Mellow Mushroom of Asheville, Alchemy Comedy, Drift Spa, Softwash Pros USA, and Jack and Diane’s Dueling Piano Bar.

The Leadership Greenville team selected the project because they felt it was an avenue for benefitting the entire West Greenville community. As the project progressed, students at West Greenville School joined the group in raising money. “The students were thrilled to participate and take ownership of some of our fundraising,” said Leadership Greenville Class 47 member Michelle Dodge. “They successfully promoted and hosted two car washes and bake sales. Their efforts raised over $4,000 toward our goal.”

West Greenville School provides therapeutic resources for students with significant emotional and behavioral disabilities in Greenville County Schools. The school’s mission is to offer innovative, highly specialized instruction so that students may acquire the academic and emotional skills necessary for productive lives. The school works with Greenville Mental Health and the Department of Juvenile Justice to provide services.

The Truist Culinary and Hospitality Innovation Center opened in 2020 to match the employment needs of downtown Greenville’s restaurants and hotels with a pipeline to opportunity for residents of West Greenville lacking economic mobility. CHI offers Quick Jobs programs in server/wait staff and cooking/baking skills. These programs allow students to qualify for an entry-level position in a matter of weeks. The center also offers continuing education for culinary and hospitality professionals close to where they work so that they can grow their skills and qualify for promotions. In addition, features and programming include recreational classes along with opportunities for team building centered on cooking and enjoying the results.

Leadership Greenville is the Greenville Chamber’s ten-month intensive experience in which participants work in teams on a volunteer project designed to make them more informed, committed, and equipped to be leaders in Greenville County. Members of Class 47 involved in this project were Jimmy Buddenberg , Matthew Collins, Michelle Dodge, Germaine Foo, Clintonette Garrison, Chris Goldman, Merle Johnson, Camden Navarro Massingill, Steven Schindler, Shelley Smith and Andrew Van.