Submitted by Kath Pengelly, volunteer and advocate coordinator at Lifeworks
In a quiet corner of Theodore Wirth Park sits the one-acre J.D. Rivers’ Children’s Garden. For the past four months, clients from our Brooklyn Park location have participated in this community garden.
From late-May to late-September, volunteers from a variety of groups plant, weed, water, compost, harvest, prepare, sample and take home the garden produce, such as vegetables, herbs, and a little bit of fruit and flowers. Extra produce is donated to a local food shelf.
The June air was cool and crisp when I first visited the Lifeworks clients while they tended to the delicate new vegetable plants. Today was a picture perfect sunny fall day as they pulled the last tomatoes from the vines and stripped the leaves of kale from their stalks. Piles of dried and withered plants lay stacked at the end of the rows.
I asked the group what they liked best about volunteering at the garden and the answers came quickly. “Doing garden work.” “Being in the sun.” “Fun.” “Picking the harvest.”
I always like to balance the best and the least favorite part of any activity so I also asked what they liked least. Everyone agreed that the hardest part was watering the plants. This year these plants took a lot of water.
Callie Recknagel, Minneapolis Park and Recreation employee, is one of the staff that supervises our work, teaches us about vegetable gardens, and gives us tastes of the harvest. I asked Callie if we make a contribution to the success of the garden project. She said having us in the garden is definitely helpful. So I guess many hands make light work makes sense.
This is our third year at J.D. Rivers garden. Today’s harvest will go to benefit the Brian Coyle food shelf. Lifeworks clients are proud of their volunteer efforts throughout our organization. Last year they gave almost 8,000 hours of volunteer time to a variety of places like J.D. Rivers. There is an old Spanish proverb that says,
“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.”
How very true. We have learned about the plant cycle, we have helped others, and we have made new friends.
I asked one final question to the group, do you want to come back again next year? “Oh, yes,” was the emphatic response. Soon the leaves will fall and the snow will cover the garden beds and Lifeworks clients will join millions of others who dream of the day that they can go back to a garden to start the growing cycle again. Thank you J.D. Rivers Garden for sharing this opportunity with us.