The front walkway of Covington Christian Fellowship Church is 100 flowers prettier, thanks to a group of senior citizens and kids working side by side in one “Labor of Love.”
Residents of Radcliffe Place Senior Apartments in Kent and special-needs students in third through sixth grades at Meridian Elementary School gathered June 10 – despite the cold, wet weather – to plant flowers and enjoy the company of each other’s generation.
The event, called Labor of Love, was inspired by Kristiina Rauch, director of marketing at Radcliffe Place. Her 8-year-old daughter, Chloe, is in the special-needs class at Meridian. Rauch said she wanted to get the two generations together, and Kevin Holland, the pastor of Covington Christian, welcomed the idea of the group sprucing up the church.
“I have a really big heart for kids with special needs, obviously. I have one of my own. And I work closely with all these seniors,” she said, choking up as she watched the group planting flowers. “I just wanted to get these two generations I love so much together, and it turned out just how I pictured it, except for the rain.”
The smiles on students’ and seniors’ faces showed the participants were excited about the project, as well. Each senior was paired with a student, and together they planted flowers using a plastic bucket, shovel and gardening gloves provided by one of the event’s sponsors, Mt. Rainier Realty. Flowers were provided by Covington’s Buds and Blooms.
The students placed a popsicle-stick name tag next to the flowers they planted, many of them proudly pointing out their work to anyone who would listen.
“This builds up the kids’ self-esteem,” special-needs teacher Jill Gibbs-Dopel said. “These kids sometimes don’t feel like they can do things, but this helps them see that they really can contribute to the community.”
Radcliffe Place resident June Howard, 76, who was partnered with third-grader Corey Olsen, jumped at the chance to come work with the kids.
“I love kids and I love flowers,” Howard said as Olsen filled in dirt around the base of a flower. “I have a special-needs great-granddaughter, and I think kids like this are just so special. They’re so precious.”
The seniors packed lunch for the all the students at Radcliffe before heading to the church, which is on 180th Avenue Southeast in Covington. After the planting was finished, they all went inside to eat. Covington’s Cold Stone Creamery provided ice cream for dessert.
As sixth-grader Tanna Parker finished planting her five flowers before lunch, she seemed happy to be involved.
“It’s kind of cool doing this, and it’s fun,” she said.
Her partner, 70-year-old John Wolf, said he was enjoying working with her, as well. But when asked what he liked most about the event, he simply said, “The ice cream.”
Rauch said she hopes the occasion “sparks others to also get involved in their communities and use their imaginations to create something truly special and memorable.”