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Mercy Clinic Giving Program Issues Grants to Area School Programs

Field Elementary's DIRT program receivs grant from Mercy
Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition receives grant from Mercy's Force For Good campaign at Field Elementary School-Photo Credit: Theresa Bettmann

Doctors and employees working together through Mercy Clinic’s charitable giving campaign raised more than $105,000 to support several area charities.  Friday, two organizations were presented checks at Field Elementary School.  KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann was there.

It is a cold, blustery winter day as elementary students, teachers, and attendees all brave the cold and head toward the greenhouse out back, where inside many school gardening projects are underway. This schoolyard garden is part of the DIRT project, or “Dig In R-12,” done in connection with the Springfield Urban Agricultural Coalition.  Students at Field Elementary are honoring the “Dress Like a Farmer Day” theme.

The DIRT project uses gardens combining classroom and hands-on learning opportunities for kids to learn more about where food comes from and healthy eating. Daniel Soetaert is executive director for the non-profit organization Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition.

“The number one thing you really have to have to survive each and every day is food, among water and clean air.  This is something we are largely divorced from as a society.  Trying to help children understand that to grow food takes a lot of work, to care for food right takes a lot of work, and that it’s a great and wonderful life skill that kids can take with them,” Soetaert says.

The Springfield Urban Agricultural Coalition received $16,650 to grow their program, and was one of two grants awarded at the event by the Mercy Clinic’s Force for Good program. 

The Force for Good campaign has raised nearly $1.6 million dollars over the past decade, distributing grants twice a year ranging from $4,000 to $50,000. Michael Nachtigal is a co-chair for Force for Good.

“The Force for Good started about 11 years ago, and it was a way that the physicians and co-workers could give back to the community.  We support various charities in the Springfield, Rolla and Joplin area,” says Nachtigal.

Nachtigal says that childhood obesity is a primary problem due to easy access of fast food and high-caloric foods.  He says he feels programs like these help everyone. Nachtigal explains that by teaching children good nutrition early it can have lasting impacts such as less medical problems in the future.

“One of the first goals of the Force for Good was to right a wrong.  And so a lot of the programs we try to do are to try and correct something that’s happened.  We try to do more new programs and venture money to get new programs going in new directions as opposed to just buying equipment or buildings or infrastructure for existing programs,” Nachtigal says.  

Hillcrest High School also received a check at the presentation to help fund the Hornet Loft program that provides clothing, shoes and hygiene items for students.

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.