Sometimes, a little bit goes a long way.
For State College resident Elle Morgan, it only took a $1,000 grant from The Pollination Project to help make a dream come true.
The grant enabled Morgan, an instructor at the South Hills School of Business & Technology, to set up a 36-acre nature camp called Half Moon Hollow on land she acquired in Clearfield County. The camp’s mission is to help troubled teens turn their lives around. Morgan uses the power of nature and nurture to help and heal wounded souls.
“One person can make a difference, and these projects are happening around the world,” Morgan said. “You can see projects in Kenya and South Africa and all the way to the United States. Little projects that can impact people in such great ways just makes the world a better place.”
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The Pollination Project is an organization that provides startup money to eligible people who work to make the world a better place. Morgan said the organization started about a year ago, which is when she initially applied for the grant.
About six years ago, Morgan said, she got the idea to share the beauty of nature with others and was specifically interested in being able to provide a place of transition for youngsters who wanted to improve their lives.
“I believe that nature and the arts are creative catalysts to start change,” Morgan said.
Morgan was formerly an inner-city classroom teacher in Harrisburg and left teaching to be a wilderness counselor with Diakon Youth Services in Boiling Springs, where she helped troubled teen girls during weekend outreach programs.
In 2008, Morgan developed a program called “ The Elements of New Life Scripts.” Students in the program go on a retreat and engage in nature study and personal transformation through writing, acting, guided meditation and movement, Morgan said.
“It’s rewriting your life and taking a look at the past and looking at the present and future,” Morgan said. “These kids came from troubled backgrounds, and a lot of their old scripts were really negative and they didn’t think they were worth anything. That didn’t need to define their futures.
“If they’ve been called a worthless little tramp, they write it down,” Morgan added.
“They see what others write and see they’re not alone and turn those phrases into a monologue. It’s freeing. It’s a chance for them to be creative. Instead of letting that destroy them, they can create something awesome and beautiful to share.”
Fast-forward to last February, when Morgan heard of The Pollination Project and found out she was eligible to receive the grant.
Her dreams began to blossom.
Cabins, tents and other outdoor amenities were added to Morgan’s land in Clearfield County to turn it into a place where groups of troubled youth can find a serene place for transformation.
In August and again in October, she made the camp into a reality with 11 girls and two counselors.
“That $1,000 was able to help my idea take off,” Morgan said.
The program received such a positive response that Morgan said another retreat will be held in February.
“It can be a little intimidating, but it gets excitement as the universal mission is to improve your life,” Morgan said. “It’s something that’s freeing and liberating, and makes it as fun as possible.”
Five years ago, a girl who was part of Morgan’s program finally received her GED. The woman, who wanted to stay anonymous, was a homeless student from Harrisburg. Now, Morgan said, the woman has two children and is no longer homeless.
“She still contacts me every holiday,” Morgan said. “The success there is that she made enough change in her life to make a life for herself. She still has a long way to go, but she’s getting there.”
Morgan said the girl was all over the map in terms of mental and physical difficulty.
“I took her under my wing, and she did a lot of arts in the program and was active in participating,” Morgan said.
“She was a great singer and performer, and that was her way of expressing her emotions as she struggled with life.”
Morgan’s goal now is to continue to recruit teens into the program, apply for additional funding and develop space for “The Elements of New Life Scripts” at her camp for outdoor classroom space.
At the end of last year, The Pollination Project asked Morgan to write a story about how the grant helped her.
Morgan was one of 300 who told a story and was picked as one of the top 10 to receive another year-end $1,000 grant.
“It’s something so small, but has a ripple effect,” Morgan said. “The Pollination Project was like a guiding start. They believed in me.”