For the last four years, The Fountains of Melbourne, a Kisco Senior Living community, has worked side by side with Palm Bay Elementary to ensure local students have access to the materials they need to be successful. As part of the collaboration, The Fountains organized a number of initiatives to benefit the school, including school supply drives, teacher appreciation events, guest speakers and renovating Palm Bay’s softball and kickball field. In turn, Palm Bay students have visited residents at The Fountains for a variety of intergenerational activities. This unique partnership has brought the senior living community and school together in hopes of strengthening the greater community and helping one another in times of need. To celebrate this special partnership, The Fountains and Palm Bay Elementary recently held their annual kickball game on the school’s renovated field, pitting The Fountains employees and residents against students and faculty from the school. In preparation for the kickball game, associates from The Fountains also prepared the field to make sure everything was ready for the big game. Volunteers spent a Saturday morning weeding, setting up the pitcher’s mound, hanging sponsorship banners and dumping a truckload of clay for the field.
“It’s been a privilege for us to have the opportunity to build this relationship with Palm Bay Elementary,” said Sandra Garutti, executive director of The Fountains of Melbourne. “This partnership has provided all of us an opportunity to give back and come together, and that has made a tremendous impact on the local community. When we began this partnership, we knew there was an overwhelming need for these students and we wanted to do anything we could to help. We’ve been lucky to engage with Palm Bay in a way that ensures we’ve all benefitted, and we look forward to seeing what we are able to accomplish in the future.”
The partnership began with a number of connections between the community and school, including Palm Bay Elementary teacher, Barbi Miller, who played with an employee from The Fountains on a unified Special Olympics softball team. These little connections grew and transformed into bonds of friendship and respect for one another. The annual kickball game is particularly meaningful to all involved, as the field was in disrepair before The Fountains rolled up their sleeves and started renovating. The project was a shoot-for-the-stars dream for the school that became a reality, allowing for students access to a safe place where they can play and have fun. According to Miller, the field’s renovation was something Palm Bay knew would require ongoing help with, but The Fountains never questioned this and got to work.
“Renovating the field was our big dream, and we’re just thrilled that it’s now a reality,” said Miller. “From the beginning, The Fountains has been fully committed to us, and it’s been so sweet to see how the relationship has grown. Seeing our students interact with the residents is incredibly heartwarming, but I think it’s the knowledge that we are supporting each other that has made this partnership so special. Everyone from the community has been so kind and genuine, and you can tell they truly want to help support our school. We’re a 52-year-old school, we’ve been here for a long time and there’s a lot that we need to ensure our students have the supplies and experiences they need to be successful in the future. The Fountains has been an incredible ally in that aspect and even the smallest acts of kindness have gone a long way to show our students that someone cares.”
In addition to representatives from The Fountains and Palm Bay playing during the kickball game, Mark W. Mullins, superintendent of Brevard Public Schools, was also on hand to participate in the game and throw out the ceremonial first pitch. According to Mullins, the partnership between The Fountains and Palm Bay is an example that everyone can learn from and highlights the value of supporting one another.
“I was very excited to see our kids and the senior community come together,” said Mullins. “So much can be learned and shared when we laugh and play together, and this event was a reminder of the power of coming together to support one another. That spirit of connectivity is what community is all about, and I was proud to witness it firsthand.”
For The Fountains employees like Rick Veile, the kickball game is a reminder of the impact this partnership has made on everyone involved. Veile helped to provide the field’s dugout benches, building them himself and painting them to finish them off. As a parent with grown children, Veile wanted to help in any way that he could and knows that even simple aspects can make the biggest impact. According to Veile, when he was first asked to participate, his immediate reaction was: “When and what do you want me to do?”
“Being a part of this partnership has been very gratifying and has reminded me of the importance of helping others,” said Veile. “I’ve always enjoyed helping someone else and was excited to have the opportunity to make an impact on a group of kids that needed it. From a young age I was taught the value of doing a good job, and I hope in some way I am able to pass along that ideal to these kids. I was excited to get out on the field again and see the joy on the faces of everyone. I’m so glad that we had the opportunity to gather purely for fun.”
Following the game, The Fountains presented Palm Bay Elementary with Thanksgiving baskets, complete with their own turkeys for those in need during the holiday season. Each basket came with all the ingredients and materials needed for a delicious meal. The community hopes that with these baskets, the recipients were able to fully enjoy celebrating time together.
“As we look back on this year’s event we couldn’t be more proud,” said Bridget Perers, director of business development at The Fountains of Melbourne. “The relationship we have built with Palm Bay Elementary is incredibly near to our hearts and we’re very thankful for time together to celebrate what we have accomplished over the past few years.”