Yesterday's Books & Badges event at Beatty Recreation Center was truly special. It's the first time we've had a guest author, and not only that, but he was the age of some of the children receiving his books! Te'Lario Watkins is a 12-year-old entrepreneur who started mushroom farming after a Boy Scouts project sparked his interest in raising plants from seeds. He wanted to keep growing things when the project ended, but it being winter in Ohio, his choices were limited. So, Te'Lario did some research and settled on mushrooms.
Te'Lario's book then details how a simple mushroom kit turned into a passion for mushroom farming, and ultimately Tiger Mushroom Farms. It is a very cute story, sure to put a smile on the faces of adults and inspire kids. It discusses food insecurity, helping others, and, of course, healthy eating. If you'd like your own copy, please go to their website or visit them at one of the farmers markets listed there.
Our president, Nicole Banks, and Te'Lario's mother, LaVanya Watkins, have been Facebook friends for quite some time, so they were thrilled that Columbus Division of Police and Columbus Recreation and Parks Department let us bring this event to Beatty. The children were equally thrilled. One little guy completely ignored 7 Precinct Community Liaison Officer Tony Rogers as he read, instead gaping at the Watkins family standing nearby, then looking down at his book, back at the family...book...family. He was stunned that the people in the book were standing in front of him. It was incredibly cute.
Due to social distancing concerns, we broke the kids down into two groups. Te'Lario gave a presentation to one group while an officer read to the other, and we had two CPD readers. In addition to Ofc Rogers, Officer Kiara Husband from the CPD Recruitment Office also joined us. All of the children received Fun With Fungi coloring books and seeds from the Watkins family and got to ask Te'Lario questions about his life, mushrooms, and entrepreneurship.
Beatty has a community garden that the children work hard on in conjunction with guidance from Ohio State helpers, so the Watkins family visited it. This is the first year for the garden, and they got a late state due to Covid-19, but the artwork of the kids and their diligence is already paying off. Next year will be really beautiful.
This garden was made possible because of the city's Land Bank program, which allows individuals or groups to buy vacant lots or properties at a deep discount as long as they agree to take care of the property. If you're interested, visit the website and see if anything would work for you.
Over the past two years, we've had the honor of visiting multiple Columbus recreation centers, and we are very impressed with the dedication of the staff, the diversity of programming, and the commitment to the community. They are passionate about making a difference, and we're all lucky to have them. We want to again thank the Wartel Family Foundation for making our Books & Badges events at these rec centers possible. Since their summer program has been extended, we have more in the works, so stay tuned for more updates over the next few weeks.