Bridge 21’s neurodiversity gardening club

PARK CITY, Utah — Liza Howell and Stephanie Polikoff are Co-Founding Board Directors of Bridge 21 Park City. They’re addressing housing for the neurodiverse community in Park City, with a goal of having a variety of housing options so that when the population graduates out of The Learning Center, they have options of places to live and ways to plug into the community as independently as possible. “We were founded as a nonprofit in 2021 and prior to that, we sprang out of a group of parents at the National Ability Center. We are a Park City housing and transition committee.” Howell told me.

Bridge 21 gardeners at the top of the picture having a picnic dinner.
Bridge 21 gardeners, at the top of the picture, digging into a picnic before digging into their plot. Photo: Michele Roepke

Polikoff was the occupational therapist for the Park City School District for years and years and was Liza’s son, Andy’s O.T., and always wondered where the students were going to live when they grow up.

Bridge 21 has two plots at the Summit Community Gardens where they meet every other week for their Buds And Blooms gatherings as part of their Supportive Amenities for all ages.

Participants on Wednesday afternoon included: Andy, Howell’s son; Alex, whose family is Ukrainian; Eva Jennings who is now a student at Utah State University’s Aggies Elevated, a program for students with intelectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD); Erin with her Aunt, Billie, and C.J. Haerter with his dad, Chris.

Billie said she gives Bridge 21, “Two thumbs up.”

C.J. said, “I like Gardening a lot. He added that he, “enjoys growing vegetables and eating vegetables.”

They certainly get by with hands in dirt and have some equipment but could always put some more gardening tools to use if Parkites were so inclined to donate them. Volunteers are another resource this group could use and people may sign up on their website. Ultimately, however, if they had their druthers, housing for these aforementioned members to go to after gardening would be life-changing. “A multi-bedroom home near public transportation or walking-distance to jobs and social events give these people opportunities they deserve.” described Howells.

Donations towards any or all those resources may be made on their website.

For now though, for Wednesday nights in the summer in Park City, gardening and picnicking with friends puts smiles on everyone’s faces.

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