Youth volunteer Grae Fischer receives Christian Service Award

gtccIn the garden we welcome so many wonderful people; families, youth groups, NCL, Brophy Key Club, ASU, NAU and UofA students, doctors, children, Madison Meadows Charitable Acts Club and so many more. One special family in particular, the Fischers (Lisa, Ed, Grae and Michael), have made Growing Together Giving Garden an important part of their volunteer time for over four years. Last month, 8th grade St. Francis Xavier student, Grae, 14, received the Father Sullivan Ignatian Spirit Christian Service Award along with 35 of her peers from various Catholic Schools around the Valley. Grae tributes her love for service, helping others and sharing a sense of community to her many experiences in the garden. One example stands out. “For Grae’s birthday, instead of having her friends bring gifts for her party, she asked them to purchase needed supplies for Growing Together Giving Garden. She and her friends purchased needed items (gloves, tools, and seeds) and presented these wonderful gifts to the garden volunteers. We celebrated Grae’s birthday together in the garden that Saturday morning while tilling soil, turning compost, and planting seeds,” says our humble and grateful garden community at GTGG.

In addition, Grae and her Mom, also members of National Charity League, give their time every month with the Moon Valley Chapter as well as support our holiday Christmas parties for a group of foster children we serve. Thank you, Grae! It is an incredible blessing to learn from you as we experience together how the garden draws such a wide and deep community each week. To plant seeds of service and friendship and experience, and share our harvest with the community is a true gift and a blessing. You empower others to reap the benefits as a loving and giving community together!


First United Methodist Church partners with Growing Together 

fmuc1For the second year, Growing Together Giving Garden was invited to partner with one of our neighborhood churches, First United Methodist Church (FUMC), to participate in their annual Sunday WORKSHIP Day of service. Every year FUMC church members spend one Sunday morning volunteering at various organizations throughout the Valley. With the recent transition to our new garden location, “Timing was perfect,” says Judy Walden, one of our garden volunteers, and a member of FUMC. “The garden has a need and our church wants to serve in the community, so it was a perfect morning match!”

15 First UMC volunteers, plus a few of our garden regulars, joined us on Sunday, February 28 to move dirt, plant flower pots, build our shelving and reorganize our new garden shed, water trees, reinstall our compost fence, set up the compost bins and enjoy fun and fellowship together on a beautiful Sunday morning. “This is what the garden is all about…providing delicious fruits and vegetables to the needy, while making connections and strengthening our ties to the community. We are here to not only serve those less fortunate, but to bring together people of all ages, experiences, faiths, backgrounds…all with a beautiful common goal – to share love and serve others.”



December’s volunteer of the month: Jill Green, Team Interact Mentor, Washington High School

Jill GreenWhy do you love coming to the garden?

Even though the garden is a bustling place on Saturdays, to sit off by myself and weed and just watch everyone else – the students are flitting around after Judy gives them instructions, Ronda and Sandy are figuring out what to plant next in the beds, Annie is seeing what’s ripe for harvest and the volunteers are buzzing. Connecting with nature and friends and students is perfect.

How have you grown with the garden?

Despite my last name, I don’t have a green thumb. I observe and absorb everything. I’m almost brave enough to get my own garden going. The garden makes me happy. I pass it every morning on the way to school, and it makes me smile.

What has the garden done for you and the Interact students?

Our Interact club volunteers at dozens of local charities, and there is no question that the garden is at the top of the list. How else can you explain a van full of teenagers at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning who are eager to get their hands dirty? Even though they come for the fun of being with their friends, the garden is really an outdoor classroom where the students learn about sustainability, biology, entomology, chemistry and hydrology. I am always so proud of their hard work and dedication to whatever task is at hand as they connect with their community.

P.S. Jill and Team Interact have volunteered at Growing Together for over 3 years. Aligned with our mission to serve the community, we are truly blessed while their “Service above Self” motto is shared as we dig in the dirt together!

Thank you, Jill for your incredible love and leadership. WE have learned so much from YOU!

November’s volunteer of the month: Stuart Neil

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Why do you come to Growing Together Giving Garden?

I go to the garden because I want my relationship with our earth to be more symbiotic and to become more knowledgeable about gardening and sustainability. I love gardening and I want to go into permaculture design or some other related field.

I love coming to Growing Together because you are all so welcoming and kind and I love seeing a successful local green initiative! It’s really fun coming to the garden and seeing people of all ages working together with their hands. It’s an inspiring sight after traveling through the scary world of bulldozed Phoenix in which it seems the human race has absolutely no chance at turning around and reviving our broken ecosystems. I really wish food forests and vegetable gardens like Growing Together were more common because they bring people together to do something real and meaningful. Plus growing as much food locally as possible is the responsible thing to do because of the devastation that the agribusinesses greed has inflicted on our planet.

“Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard.” -Standing Bear

Thank you, Stuart, for being such a JOY and so helpful with our volunteer community in the garden. We always LOVE your smiling face, leadership and support and look forward to your return every week!!!

August’s volunteer of the Month: Candace Wilkinson

Screen shot 2014-08-13 at 9.44.40 PMWhy do you come to the garden?

I enjoy digging around in the dirt, watching things come up and of course, the satisfaction of tasty rewards!

What do you like best about the garden?

I love hearing other folks’ stories (gardening and otherwise) — why they are there, where their interest in growing things has come from, what successes & failures they’ve had, what books they read, what thoughts they have on life’s adventures.  I also enjoy delivering the harvest to the Food Shelf folks or the Lighthouse.

What have you learned by coming to the garden?

I’ve gardened for many years, but learning to grow things in the desert is something else again.  I have learned SO MUCH from Ronda, Susan, JoAnne, Augie & Benito and many others.  My garden at home is doing much better as a result. 🙂

And from all of us at Growing Together Giving Garden, we thank you for your love, dedication, enthusiasm and genuine garden spirit & smile as you continue to help us grow to fulfill our mission to serve our community!

Spring veggie swap brings out the volunteers


juneswap2bOur Spring Adopt-a-Bed donors enjoyed harvesting, washing, bagging our fruit and vegetable bounty together at our seasonal Veggie Swap in June. Lots of wonderful volunteers and donors to serve our neighborhood missions and reap the 10% they are entitled to enjoy for themselves. Together we shared tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, leeks, peppers, zucchini and squash together and the remaining was delivered to The Dream Center. We all had a fantastic time! Thank you Adopt-a-Bed “families.” We couldn’t fulfill our mission to serve our needy community without your service to the garden community!

Spring Veggie Swap includes National Charity League, Interact Students, Generous Hearts, and Happy Faces in the Garden:









March’s Volunteer of the Month: Washington High’s Team Interact


The students from Washington High School Team Interact have much to say when it comes to “Service Above Self,” their club motto. After volunteering once or twice a month in the garden for the past two years, it was time to find out  — How has the garden changed YOU out in the community? Here’s what they had to say:

  • 022814ricky“Gardening is not hard but it is amazing how something so small, like a vegetable or turning compost, can affect so many lives in such a positive way.” ~ Joseangel Gonzalez, senior who will be leading the Interact Team (a.k.a. Rotaract Club) at NAU next fall.
  • “I love getting closer to my Interact Team when we meet on Saturday mornings. I appreciate what it means to volunteer and to see how others are impacted by our service in the community.” ~ Erica Balderas, Interact Team President
  • “I am more appreciative and thankful through helping others – changing the world one day at a time.” ~ Gerson Gonzalez
  • “The garden has taught me many skills and how we can impact our community and communicate better with others.” ~ FideRica Saenz
  • “The garden and volunteering here is fun. I have learned about a new hobby in gardening and at the same time helping others.” ~ Ricardo Lopez
  • “I love the comrade! As the club sponsor, I love to see their eyes light up when they work together.” Jim Green, Rotary Club sponsor.
  • “I appreciate Team Interact and their support to the Foster Home we serve and their gift of a Christmas party to the children.” ~ Annie Mittelstaedt, garden volunteer
  • “I am grateful for these wonderful students giving back to a community by being part of a community.” ~ Pam Fitzgerald, garden volunteer



January’s Volunteer of the Month Club Member: Pam Fitzgerald

Pam Fitzgerald

Pam Fitzgerald

“Before I got involved with the garden, I had started a vegetable garden at my home.  I enjoyed gardening and my success was hit or miss.  The more I did, the more I learned that ‘I knew nothing.’ I had noticed the garden a couple times, and finally took the time to stop.  I got a phone number and talked to Judy and Annie.  I showed up ‘late’ the first time, but they didn’t care. They just put me to work. I still show up ‘late’ and everyone just laughs and just say ‘good to see you, now get to work.’
I continued coming because I had made some new friends and enjoyed the company.    I also loved diversity of the people who came to help at the garden.   I have learned so much about gardening from Ronda, Sandy, Heather and everyone else.  My own gardening skills have improved.  Most of all, I feel that I am doing something worthwhile.   Growing ‘good organic’ food for people in need gives me a sense of worth.  Being a retired teacher, I really find it exciting to see kids do their volunteer hours in the garden; school groups come for a tour and learn that food doesn’t just come from the store; children come with their parents and tend the garden together. There is a real feeling of acceptance and love among the people who work at the garden. I find it to be very fulfilling to watch everything grow in the garden and I am always amazed to see how quickly the barren land becomes an amazingly beautiful ‘urban farm.’  I also am amazed at the effort so many people have contributed to make this garden a very special place.  I am afraid you are stuck with me.”

. . . and we are so blessed that we are stuck with you, garden friend.

Thank you, Pam!

— Pam Fitzgerald

December’s Volunteer of the Month Club Member: Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith

When you drive by the garden sometimes you may notice a little red car in our parking area and you will know instantly that the garden is being tended to and well cared for with lots and lots of TLC . . . there you will find Sandy Smith, either trimming the vegetables back, watering a bed, chopping up leaves for compost or turning dirt. Over the past 2 years we have been so blessed to have Sandy as one of our most dedicated, committed and our “one of a kind” special volunteer in the garden. Her knowledge, interest and love for growing things is demonstrated through her time and talents, generous smile and encouraging words sprinkled throughout the beds and rooted deep within our foundation as a mission to serve others.

Thank you, Sandy!

November’s Volunteer of the Month Club Member: Joanne Meltzer

Joanne Meltzer

Joanne Meltzer

You will often find Joanne pushing a wheel barrow, digging in the dirt, on top of the wood chips; chopping vines for compost . . . always ready and focused on what it takes to complete the tasks for that day in the garden. Yet, in addition being such a dedicated and hard worker, we can always count on Joanne as she is an incredibly supportive volunteer who will do whatever it takes to help others, jump in anywhere needed, and always wants to learn more about gardening. Joanne is really fun, energetic, full of life in addition to being a wonderful friend. When we think of Joanne, we think of JOY and CARING because she shares both with us! Thank you, Joanne! We love having you in the garden with us. Below Joanne shares her reasons for coming to the garden:

“The reason I come to the garden is because it is FUN! It is also a great way to get exercise without actually exercising. Bring on the wood chips! My favorite part of the garden is the knowledge you are all willing to share. For example, this week Ronda showed me how to inspect for the little green worms called hornworms and I have been outside in my garden for the past three days inspecting each plant – I am determined to win! What I am most proud is that this is something I can do to help other people who are down on their luck. It is “nourishing” to be able to give back something … I am also extremely impressed with the student volunteers, who, when in the course of a day you only hear negative comments about the youth of today, it’s nice to know there are mature, polite and respectful students who truly enjoy helping. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to “grow together” with you!”
~ Joanne Meltzer