Sarah Kugel is the Community Outreach Coordinator at Wildlands Trust. She is serving her second term as an AmeriCorps volunteer.
Since I started my AmeriCorps-MassLIFT term of service, I have been waiting for this day. When I started, I was assigned with the task of starting a new community garden. I decided to start the garden at the Plymouth Area Coalition for the Homeless in Kingston, Massachusetts. In years past, Duxbury High School students had grown a few rows of vegetables outside the Wildlands Trust office in the Philbrick Community Garden and donated them to the shelter. The shelter runs a food bank which receives many donations, but rarely fresh produce.
I presented my plan to start a garden on the coalition’s property with the directors of the shelter and they were on-board and excited about the plan. I then spent the winter months planning, fundraising, and recruiting volunteers. I grew up always having a garden and some vegetables in my backyard, but this was the first time I’d be starting a garden on my own, let alone a 1,100 sq. ft. garden. I talked to many local garden centers, farmers, and backyard gardeners in preparation for my project.
In the early spring, I broke ground with a group of student volunteers from Lesley University and since then I’ve been working with volunteers, young and old, from local communities. We have tilled, spread manure, raised seedlings, dug a rain garden, installed fencing, built rain barrels, watered, cared for our plants... and today we harvested lettuce, mint, and basil with the help of four young kids staying at the shelter. The kids could not wait to make, “salad or a lettuce sandwich for lunch!”
One volunteer also brought a large aloe plant with her that needed separating and transplanting. The four kids helped us with this task. First we taught them about the aloe plant and they each had a chance to feel the goo from inside the plant. We also showed them bottled aloe from the store and told them they could just break a piece off their plants instead or if they didn’t have any from the store. Then we all decorated our pots, placing rocks in the bottom to help with drainage and surrounding the roots with special cactus soil. The kids were all proud of their work and excited to bring them inside to show their parents.
On our way into the shelter I found a little toad and was able to catch it. Each of the children took a turn holding it, squirming with excitement. It really could not have been a more perfect day. As I was leaving, one young girl asked me, “Will you be back tomorrow?” I said no since tomorrow would be Saturday, but asked her if she would be around next week. She said, “Probably!”