SALT LAKE CITY — A new Wasatch Community Gardens program, slated to begin in April, will provide a group of 10 low-income single mothers free job training in a high-demand career field, as well as education in gardening.
Seeds of Success, the 10-week program, has grown out of a partnership with Climb Wyoming, a nonprofit with a 30 year history of helping families out of poverty.
The nonprofit will help support the program for two years with a $1 million grant it received from the United Health Foundation to spread its curriculum in other states. The grant allowed the organization to operate and mentor one program in Colorado and one in Utah.
After the two years, it will be up to Wasatch Community Gardens to continue the program. Ashley Patterson, executive director of the gardens, said she hopes to continue it for years to come.
Ray Fleming Dinneen, founder and executive director of Climb Wyoming, explained her organization's role in the program Monday at Wasatch Community Gardens' Green Team Farm, where the program was announced.
She said the organization is sharing its expertise with the program to focus on alleviating poverty.
"We really discovered what self-sufficiency meant for women in poverty and it's so much more than a job," she said. "The idea that work means self-sufficiency is critical to poverty and the alleviation of poverty. And that's what we do really well."
"The piece that most programs nationwide have not been able to accomplish is to do this in groups of 10 women at a time, and the power of that group in terms of moving beyond what poverty means for themselves and their families to self-sufficiency is powerful," she explained.
The idea behind the program, according to a news release, is for the women to "learn to grow their own food while growing a new career."
"I think it's definitely needed in our community," said Susie Marvin, the program's director.
"It's hard to self regulate when you come from the chaos of trying to make ends meet and the struggles of poverty and the struggles that come with you in life that haven't allowed you to advance into a self-sufficient life," she said.
The different sessions of the program will provide job training for whichever career field research shows is in high demand. For the first session, the women will leave the program with their certified nursing assistant certification.
The second 10-week session will launch around September, and Marvin said that group's training speciality is undecided.
Another partner for the program is the Utah Department of Workforce Services, which provides funding for the certified nursing assistant training for participants.
According to Marvin, research shows there is currently a high demand for nurses in Salt Lake City.
"We're excited to have the moms work through that training program and find immediate placement," Marvin said. "We'll also be working with them through this time to help them with job placement skills, mock interviews, the other support they'll need to get that job."
She said the program is committed to finding job placement for participants and has reached out to a range of hospitals, home-health agencies and long-term care facilities.
"We are working with employer partners to ensure that all moms find a job that is the right fit for them," Patterson said. "I hope that this is a life transformation for them. I hope that moms leave with a real sense of confidence in themselves and awareness that they're capable of doing anything," she said.
Things like childcare could be a barrier for single moms who want to participate in the program.
"Majority of job losses can be attributed to difficult personal barriers in life," Dinneen said.
However, Marvin explained the program intentionally won't provide childcare, but instead will work closely with participants to find resources.
"A large part of our role is helping the moms to access the other resources available in our community," she said. "We want to empower the moms to be able to access the resources that already exist."
Participants will go to Green Team Farm once a week to learn hands-on about gardening.
The farm, just under 1.5 acres, opened in 2016 and provides farm-based job training to homeless women, so this new program will expand the mission of the farm, Patterson said.
The group's time at the farm will not only teach them practical skills, but help them develop social, emotional and thinking skills.
"That will really be a therapeutic part of the program, the moms will learn to grow their own food, they'll get their hands in the dirt, they'll work in teams," Marvin said. "So it's really going to enrich their overall experience and allow us to be able to help them develop other skills."
The program is currently recruiting participants and those interested can contact Susie Marvin at firstname.lastname@example.org.