BY SHEA ODOM
The Greenville Standard
“Mother Nature is the greatest teacher,” was quoted by the Late Brenda Gruenewald. Brenda was known for her love for not only the outdoors, but her love for serving others.
She dedicated her life to Georgiana School and the community, teaching with the Butler County School System for more than 25 years.
In her honor and memory, Georgiana School is developing a “Trail of Encouragement.”
“The Trail of Encouragement is intended for the purpose of connecting children with nature through environmental education,” said Judy Nixon Smith of Georgiana School.
“Mrs. Gruenewald and family wants your trail to represent the importance of encouraging others to get back to nature so you can enjoy not only the academic benefits but the mental health benefits that come from nature,” Smith added.
Principal, Deedra Benson stated, “We are really focusing on the whole well-being of every child and the inclusion of all. We are honored and excited to finally announce this to the community. Many people have been working behind the scenes to make this happen.”
The Trails of Encouragement movement began after the suicide of Brenda’s husband, Mark Gruenewald in March of 2020.
Brenda’s daughter, Monica Gruenewald Pate, began a movement across social media. This movement, Trails of Encouragement, was created to promote positivity to others, suicide awareness prevention, and shed light on the importance of mental health.
Pate believes strongly in the importance of physical exercise while encouraging your mind, body, and spirit on “the trail we call life.”
Brenda is also remembered for her lifelong love of nature and the work she facilitated and completed with the Builder’s Club while teaching within the school system.
Pate added, “It is an absolute honor to have the Trail of Encouragement dedicated to my mother. With almost 30 years of teaching in the Butler County School System, she shared her passion for nature with thousands of children with her actions and dedication to school organizations like the Builder’s Club.
This nature trail is an important step in helping our children understand the importance of exercise on their mental health, as well as encouraging countless opportunities for creativity outdoors.”
“Mrs. Gruenewald truly had a servant’s heart. She was an inspiration who always led by example,” remembered Smith.
Smith hopes to break ground on the trail soon. Funding for the trail is provided through private donations to Georgiana School, grants, and other fundraisers.
Due to complications caused by Covid-19, the approved and pending grants have been placed on hold, delaying their projection time.
Smith has several projects in the works at Georgiana School for raising funds for the trail construction.
Students will be creating “Cards of Encouragement” to sell in packages of 5-15. These will contain positive, uplifting messages with hand drawn artwork of each student.
If you or your organization would like to contribute or donate to the Trail of Encouragement, you can contact Judy Nixon Smith at 334-376-9130 or mail your check to: Georgiana School, 866 HWY 31, Georgiana, AL 36033. Write Trail of Encouragement in the memo line.