Gardening, Recovery, and Opportunities for Wellness (GROW)
GROW is MHC’s Gardening Skills and Wellness Program
“Gardening, Recovery, and Opportunities for Wellness” (GROW) is led by Mental Health Connecticut’s own in-house gardener, Grayson Colarusso, was designed as a skills building and wellness program, and we grow healthy food!
MHC’s goal is to improve the health, wellbeing and work skills of our program participants, while producing fresh vegetables, herbs, and plants for under-served communities in Connecticut’s urban areas. In addition to therapeutic benefits, clients get healthy vegetables to eat, and MHC can donate to food shelters and sell produce to help fund the GROW program.
People with mental health conditions benefit from connecting to nature and being responsible for the plants. As Grayson says, “You grow as a person with the vegetables you’re growing. The stability of a garden is healing as well. A garden is always there. It’s not going to question or judge you. It’s just going to be there for you.”
Gardening and “ecotherapy” programs across Europe and the U.S. have proven to advance the long-term health of individuals at mental health facilities, hospitals, prisons, and senior living residences. MHC is collaborating with local agricultural experts, Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), city leaders, foundations, individuals, local businesses, and other nonprofits to ensure our program results in measurable impact and healthy outcomes for the individuals it serves.
MHC currently has greenhouses and gardening programs located at our residential programs in Torrington, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Danbury, and Stamford. Danbury houses MHC’s first hydroponic garden.
Want to GROW with us? Contact Suzi Craig at SCraig@mhconn.org.
Grayson Colarusso grew up in rural Clinton, New York where the family motto was “we eat what we grow and we eat colors every day.” Grayson’s father was raised on a dairy farm and their house was a small, more modern version packed with animals of all sorts and a large production garden where the family took advantage of the whole growing season, from picking hot peppers for salsa in early summer to apple butter season in the fall.
In his previous position at MHC as an Employment Specialist, Grayson helped program participants learn new job skills and rejoin the workforce. As head of GROW, Grayson is merging his skills as a mentor and supporter with his gardening expertise.
At his Connecticut home, Grayson built a micro-version of his childhood garden in his tiny backyard (for almost no cost). He hopes his passion for eating what you grow will continue to help new gardeners find the courage to start their first plant, or garden, or green house.
about mental health
Mental health and wellness are integral to whole health. However, it is not uncommon for people to experience times in their lives or in the lives of their loved ones when optimal mental health is unattainable. In fact, one in four people will experience a mental illness sometime during their life.
Assist with administrative tasks and external correspondence designed to educate the community about mental health issues, as well as other volunteer positions at our organization.