Would you be surprised if I told you a story about seven young men, ages 11-16 working every Saturday in a garden?
Charity Patch is Born
Five years ago, my wife and I set out to “find” an initiative we could get behind that would allow us to give back to the community. Long story short, we started a non-profit called Charity Patch. We grow vegetables and donate them to the local food pantry so that their patrons have access to fresh produce.
It’s hard work but the payoff is huge; when you make a delivery and the families are so excited to see baskets of fresh veggies!
What’s My Point?
Where am I going with this? Well most of you know I work with pre and post teen age boys. They come through my program, The Quest Project, for a myriad of reasons, anger, addiction, divorce, socialization, failing grades etc., basically there’s a problem.
This year a group of young men from the program decided they would like to volunteer to garden Charity Patch! And they have! They have shown up every Saturday since they planted their seedlings. They come to weed, tie up, and to wield the dreaded garden hoe! They show up!
We’re teaching these young men responsibility, empathy, sustainability, volunteerism, camaraderie, teamwork and the personal satisfaction of what a hard day’s work feels like. Some of the young men hadn’t considered what they would do if they had to grow food in order to eat. They also didn’t know that food pantries rely on donations to feed the less fortunate. That most food pantries are limited to canned and boxed foods due to their ability to store and preserve it.
You Can Do It Too
I began thinking about this at length. Boys are gaming and glued to phones and internet; but not while they’re working in a garden. What would it be like if more people took an interest and started a project to help the needy?
Five years ago, my wife and I didn’t have the space for a garden when we started Charity Patch; we asked the owner of an empty lot if we could use it to garden! He said yes. I didn’t let the fact that my yard wasn’t big enough stop me, I used some imagination and it paid off.
Watching these young men parade down the steps of the pantry with baskets full of food fills me with pride and joy! The smiles on their faces knowing “they did the work” is priceless.
I challenge anyone reading this to think about doing what we are. Start a garden, do it with other parents and get the kids outside and busy. Teach them how to plant, grow and care for a garden. Donate some or all to your local food pantry; they’ll learn valuable lessons of volunteerism and empathy.