Volunteers Lighting the Garden Path
As we wrap up our six-part series in celebration of National Volunteer Month and roll into summer, it is most fitting that we recognize the volunteers who support our gardening program.
MOM operates three gardens; the MOM Family Garden, the Melon Patch on Capitol View and the garden behind the distribution center. Each garden serves a unique role in fulfillment of our mission. For example, the Family Garden is a teaching garden. Here, clients and their families can be assigned their own row where they learn how to grow food with support from volunteer mentors. Children learn composting, small space gardening, and natural weed control. The other two gardens are used to grow fresh produce that is made available to all we serve through our food distribution program and seasonal Farmer’s Market sessions. These gardens are managed by volunteers. Though we have some volunteers who are master gardeners, garden volunteers are not necessarily skilled gardeners, rather they just need to be passionate about learning along with the clients. Willingness to get dirty and work in the natural elements while working side-by-side with clients reflects the spirit of these special volunteers.
A total of 18 volunteers support our gardening program. Over the last 5 years (2017-2021), volunteers served nearly 3,500 hours in support of the MOM pantry gardens. In 2021 alone, 759 hours were donated. Individuals and groups keep this work moving forward under the direction of one of our Food Security Managers and our lead volunteer, Dan.
Dan is a tireless and dedicated volunteer who coordinates all garden activities from seed to harvest. These activities include securing seeds, starting them, arranging tillage, purchasing supplies and scheduling volunteers for planting, maintenance and harvest. Dan most enjoys getting to know clients and fellow volunteers. “Interacting with others, both clients and volunteers, is the most fun”. Dan feels a sense of satisfaction knowing that the vegetables go directly to a family’s table.
In addition to learning about gardening, clients have opportunities to learn about the produce that is harvested each year. Lisa is a volunteer who works directly with clients to help them identify the various vegetables and explain how they can be prepared and integrated into delicious menu items. Families share recipes to use the abundance of produce that comes from the gardens. Like Dan, Lisa finds a strong sense of satisfaction from the work and the camaraderie with the clients. She especially enjoys the connection with nature. “There is something soothing and calming about working in the garden.”
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