Holly’s Story: Growing The Foundry by Growing Seeds

One December, Anndee Crutcher, a supporter of The Foundry, invited her friend Holly Pickerel to tour the facility for Giving Tuesday. As Holly saw and heard the children in the gym, classrooms, and halls, she suddenly knew that a one-time fundraiser wasn’t the only way she wanted to be involved with The Foundry.

Holly, a former elementary school teacher and now a leader in a health company, has seen many programs and classrooms benefit from growing fresh, organic produce using aeroponic Tower Gardens. Before Holly even knew that health and fitness was one of The Foundry’s main pillars, she confided to her friend Anndee her hope that they might one day bring a Tower Garden to The Foundry. The very next week, The Foundry’s cafeteria manager at the time, Dani, said, “I should offer to educate The Foundry about Tower Gardens!” Holly’s eyes nearly popped out of her head, and she prayed, “Okay, God. I’m listening. Let’s make this happen!” Dani’s willingness to take the initiative set the wheels in motion, and the three ladies were soon bursting with ideas. Within only thirty days, the full cost for the Garden Tower had been donated to The Foundry.

Not only was Holly a key player in bringing a Tower Garden to The Foundry, but through her work with Juice Plus+, she had access to an excellent PreK-12 curriculum guide that she used to bring health and wellness classes to The Foundry. As students learned these lifelong concepts, they were also singing and dancing to songs about fruits and vegetables, coloring pages that show healthy food choices, learning the food groups, and getting exercise through plenty of movement and hands-on activities.

Holly said, “I deeply believe in teaching children to plant seeds and showing them how seeds develop into healthy food. Along the way, they’ll learn how healthy food can lead to better health and hope for a productive future. The power of a plant is this: HOPE! Growth! And transformation!”

Holly feels excited about teaching children healthy eating habits that could hopefully prevent diseases later in life. She understands, however, that children might balk at eating certain foods they haven’t tasted before. Holly explained, “Did you know that it can take up to twenty-one exposures for a child to acquire the palate for an unknown food? This means that while these babes aren’t eating spinach today, eventually, and with enough exposures, they will! But it takes willing, patient adults who are diligent to keep putting it in front of them.”

When asked how Holly has most seen God at work at The Foundry, she answered, “In my own heart. He is reminding me that if I will be faithful to plant the seed (both literally and figuratively), then He will bring the harvest. But that big, grand, exciting harvest of children with healthy bodies and minds fueled with phytonutrients and colors and an appetite for a plate full of fruits and vegetables starts with lots of small, simple, seemingly insignificant little seeds. I am honored to be a seed at The Foundry!”

God has an amazing way of growing harvests each year with the addition of new workers and additional “seed.” The Tower Garden story has continued in the 2020-2021 school year.

Ms. Allysa Benton, our Warren County preschool teacher, started a plant study with her students offering them the opportunity to see plants grow from seed. After starting them in the windowsill of her classroom, tiny plants moved into the Tower Garden for growth to maturity. The Tower Garden is located in the cafeteria where all The Foundry students can watch the plants grow.

Mrs. Shawna Wood, our Healthy Foundry Director, wanted to start tackling the issue of childhood obesity that is plaguing our youngest citizens in the West End. Part of her strategy is an education campaign in which the students learn healthy lifestyle habits, including eating 5+ servings of fruits and veggies each day.

As Holly shared when she brought the Tower Garden to The Foundry originally, children need lots of attempts and exposure to new tastes AND they are more likely to try these new things when they’ve been part of the growing process.

Ms. Leann Chapman came to The Foundry with all of her culinary talents and heart to enrich both our student’s plates and lives. She strategically creates menus which not only provide fresh fruits and veggies daily for our children, but to introduce them to new foods and tastes in kid-friendly ways.

Allysa, Shawna, Holly, and Leann are partnering to further develop the Garden Tower’s production so that all of The Foundry students can learn about and try not only a variety of greens, but other vegetables and herbs, too!

The Tower Garden is truly a picture of sustained partnership and growth – season after season!

The Foundry, Summer Newsletter 2021

Bring Joy Through Struggles: Danny’s Story of Love for The Foundry

Years ago, a young boy named Danny began attending the Boys’ Club in Bowling Green, Kentucky, at the age of eight. That organization became such an integral part of his life that he kept attending through the age of eleven. The building that was then known as the Boys’ Club would years later take on its new identity as The Foundry Christian Community Center. Young Danny had no way of knowing that he would someday return to this building in a much larger capacity.
Danny Carothers is the beloved Community Director at The Foundry, and he carries out many roles. Checking on the grounds, conducting security work, supervising the community garden, overseeing the janitorial system, and driving the bus for Megan’s Mobile Grocery are all tasks you could find him doing.

How did Danny find himself in this role, doing so much for The Foundry?

Before Danny was employed by The Foundry, he had been mentoring a young man who was planning to become a teacher but needed help preparing for the required practice test. Danny connected him to some mentors at The Foundry, and the young man also took on the role as Community Director. As expected, with the help of The Foundry, he eventually passed the necessary test, became employed by the school system, and had to resign from his role as Community Director. Danny, who had already worked for twenty-seven years in a factory, longed to be in a position where he could work directly with people and believed God was leading him into this newly vacated role.

“Never in a million years would that little boy at the Boys’ Club have imagined I would be here someday!” Danny Carothers said with enthusiasm. “Every day is a gift as God allows me to work with all these beautiful people.”

Danny overflowed with joy as he told about the community garden program that had plots gardened by twenty-nine families last year. This included four different nationalities, and one family from the Congo included fifteen people.

“Lots of vegetables came from that garden last year,” Danny said proudly. “There were language barriers, but you could still feel the love between everyone.”

The children at The Foundry also make Danny enjoy coming to work every day.

“I get there about 7:15 every morning,” he said, “so I’m able to see them getting off the bus. I watch their shoulders lift as they come into the building and see them smile at they go toward the big breakfast waiting for them.”

Danny said he wanted to make a difference in the lives of these children, so he took multiple trainings and tests so he could interact with them more effectively.

“I chat with the kids and play with them in the gym,” Danny said. “If I have to stop by a classroom, I’m careful to pick the best time because the kids get off task so easily. The teachers will have them working on something, but once they see me, they all start calling, ‘Mr. Danny! Mr. Danny!’ So I try not to be disruptive.”

Danny said the blessings that come from interacting with those from The Foundry, and also Megan’s Mobile Grocery, are two-fold.

“We all have struggles,” he said. “If I can bring somebody joy among their struggles, that helps two people—me and them.”

The Foundry, Spring Newsletter 2021

Support All the Big Things Happening at The Foundry

Dear Friends and Supporters of The Foundry,

I am so thrilled to be in this role that God has placed me in at The Foundry! I am also excited about the things God is leading us to for the year 2021.

The Gospels are filled with examples of Jesus ministering to the whole person; He not only taught the people He encountered, but He fed them and healed their physical bodies. We also know from research that children’s academic success is strongly linked to their health. That’s why we are thrilled to announce that, through the Good Samaritans Grant, The Foundry has received funds to promote our new Healthy Foundry Initiative, providing a holistic wellness approach for the mind, body, and spirit.

Recently, we hired Shawna Wood as our Healthy Foundry Director. As soon as she accepted the position, she began building new connections and strengthening existing connections with healthcare partners in Bowling Green. The Healthy Foundry plans to provide health screenings (vision, dental, hearing, general wellness, and mental health) for people in the West End and help them find further care when needed.

Also, contingent on local COVID-19 guidelines, the Healthy Foundry will be offering organized fitness opportunities for people in the West End community. These family-friendly events will also involve a faith component, such as prayer or a short Bible teaching.

This year, we are excited for the expansion of our existing gardening project to include high tunnels through a partnership with Crossland Community Church. Community members will once again be able to grow fresh produce for themselves, and the high tunnels will expand the growing season to nine months out of the year. This will provide income possibility for local residents through a local food bank that is needing locally-grown, fresh produce. In addition to gardening education, we will offer nutrition and cooking classes for community residents wanting to learn how to prepare healthy meals at home.

The Foundry is working with the South Central Workforce Development Board to host a job fair in 2021. Individuals in the West End will be pre-screened to find out what types of work they are looking for, and then employers in need of those types of workers would be brought to the job fair, which should hopefully result in a high number of people gaining employment! This event was last held at the Bowling Green Hot Rods stadium, and we are excited to hold it on the soccer field at The Foundry this year.

Through all we do, our objective at The Foundry is to be the hub of the West End and direct people in the right direction regarding their needs. The question I want each of us to ask ourselves is, “What can I do to further impact our children, families, and the entire West End?”

When you invest in The Foundry, it leaves a lasting impact on the West End and with children and families at large. This area can change and transform, but it takes consistency, investment, time, and sharing the message. With every investment a person makes into The Foundry, the trajectory of a child, family, and community is changed.

We invite you to join us as we continue to invest in the future of the West End.

Dr. Terry Daniels

The Foundry, Spring 2021

Great Things This Year for The Foundry

The epic year of 2020 has come to a close. As we look back, we all have definitive moments—good or bad—that stand out to us. The Foundry is no different.

The Valencia family’s four boys have been a part of The Foundry since 2017. Jonathan and Diego are graduates of preschool and now attend the after-school program. Sander is completing his last year of preschool in Miss Shannon’s room, while William just began this semester in the three-year-old class.

Our teachers have seen the Valencia boys flourish as they continue their education. Not only have they evolved as creative thinkers, but they have also developed socially, as their teachers see daily in their friendships with other students. Their teachers have also noticed how well the boys’ speech has improved during their time at The Foundry.

The growth of these precious boys can’t be attributed to The Foundry alone, but The Foundry’s extra effort and impact continues to pour into their growth and development. The Valencia parents are very involved in the lives of their sons and, before COVID-19, they were routinely seen at The Foundry’s parent involvement events and holiday parties. Their optimistic, caring spirits have pushed their boys to become loving children and hard-working students. After-school Coordinator Will Downing recalls going to the family’s apartment following Jonathan’s graduation from preschool. Mr. and Mrs. Valencia had hung Jonathan’s certificate up on their mantle, showing their pride in the work their sons do at The Foundry.

The Valencia family saw a lot of changes in 2020, including a very positive one. At the start of the pandemic, they were able to move out of their apartment into a house! Not only did this move put them in close proximity to The Foundry, but they now live in a house that has a nice backyard for their children to play in. Mr. Valencia has spent months renovating the house for his family, and The Foundry has also helped with the house during the pandemic. The Valencia boys are very curious and love exploring their new place.

The Foundry and the Valencia family have a very meaningful relationship with each other. Mr. and Mrs. Valencia are always willing to do whatever is best for their children and they trust us, The Foundry, to help their children learn and grow into their best selves. God has worked in this family in magnificent ways, and we are so grateful He has allowed us the opportunity to be a part of their lives.

The Foundry, Winter Newsletter 2021

Transformation: Through the Eyes of Sonja Blatchford

When the community hears of The Foundry, our hope is that the heart of our mission comes to mind: “…to empower children and families to bring about spiritual and community transformation.” As we strive to live out our mission, not only have children and families been empowered by The Foundry, but our staff members and volunteers have, as well.

Sonja Blatchford began working with The Foundry in 2014 through her role as Senior Staff Associate at Broadway United Methodist Church. She and Pastor Adam Shourds, also from Broadway UMC, thoughtfully began writing The Foundry’s strategic plan. Listening to God’s calling, Broadway United Methodist Church played a vital role in preparing and launching the new preschool at The Foundry. Senior Pastor, Rick Bard, believed Sonja would be the right person to take over many of the new duties The Foundry presented, so he offered to place her in a staff position at The Foundry. The Foundry Board of Directors welcomed that offer and appointed her Interim Executive Director in the fall of 2014. Sonja assisted with hiring the initial staff, led the renovation of the building, and tended to the multiple tedious steps required for The Foundry to become state licensed. Despite all the challenges she knew the project would entail, Sonja’s conviction that God was leading this process drove her passion.

“I understood that the plans we were making as a team affected lives,” Sonja said. “I knew I would be taken out of my comfort zone. It kept me praying to remain faithful and open to the ways God was stretching me. My conviction that God had ordained this ministry gave me assurance that He would provide—and He did in amazing and wonderful ways. His business is transformation, after all!”

Working to turn The Foundry into a functioning, state-licensed preschool would undoubtedly hit some snags along the way. Sonja remembered the team working tirelessly for months to prepare for the state inspection. This preparation required attention to multiple details—the facility, curriculum, employee training, classrooms, and stacks of paperwork. The inspector arrived and was in awe of all the work that had been done. When she tested the water in the preschool bathroom sink, however, it wasn’t hot enough to pass inspection.

“I thought I might cry then and there,” Sonja confessed. “I prayed big time, and God provided.” The contractor was called, soon arrived to make a quick adjustment to the water heater and The Foundry became a state-licensed preschool.

“What kept me going was my conviction that God’s hand was on this ministry, and all we had to do was be faithful and rely on Him every step of the way. In truth, God could have accomplished it without any of us or the many, many people and churches that were involved in launching it. But He knew that in the process each of us would be transformed and would be blessed in amazing ways.”

And God continues to bless in amazing ways. Even during this difficult time of navigating a pandemic, The Foundry reopened our doors on Tuesday, Sept. 8th for our Preschool Academy with precautions being taken to keep our students and staff safe.

Teachers are daily sanitizing their rooms and have eliminated cloth toys and rugs. Instead of eating in the lunchroom, students are eating within their pods of ten in their own classroom. The instructional day has also changed to better adapt to the circumstances. Some of our preschoolers would normally come for a half day of instruction in either the morning or afternoon, but they are now alternating days and staying for the whole day, since half days would require time for additional daily sanitization.

Another helpful accommodation is that teachers are wearing plastic shield masks. This allows students to read their teachers’ lips, which is especially important for students learning to speak English. It also allows students to see more of their teachers’ faces and welcoming smiles.

As we reflect back on some of The Foundry’s beginnings, we are thankful for people like Sonja who helped launch The Foundry – and as we attempt to persevere through these challenging circumstances, we are thankful for our leaders, teachers, students, donors and prayer warriors and so many others who continue to move us into the future.