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!

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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!!!

October’s volunteer of the Month: Jasmina and Ena from Madison Meadows Charitable Acts Group

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Jasmina and Ena from Madison Meadows Charitable Acts Group.

We enjoy spending time at the garden every chance we get. It is great being educated by Ms. Judy about many things like compost, bugs, gardening tools and plants. Learning on how to take care of plants and how to harvest them has created a lot of fun and memories for us. We have been introduced to different types of plants and their unique styles of care like growing loose-leaf lettuce with the “cut and come again” method so you can plant and harvest it all season long.

As a volunteer, we have learned that that having a garden can be fun but takes a lot of work as well. In the end, all the hard work pays off, because it makes us feel good that the fruits and veggies are being donated to people in need. We are looking forward to the future experiences that we will have at the garden.

Fall 2014 Adopt a Bed Program is open for sign up!

Garden overview

Garden enthusiasts, families, friends, school service groups and our community . . . you are all invited to be our partner this spring for our 5th season of the Adopt-a-Bed Program. It works like this: We work with you to select a bed, prepare the soil, plant seedlings (we provide plants/seeds), weed, harvest, deliver and watch your garden grow with you throughout the fall season. Your donation of $100 per bed (tax deductible) gives you for a 10’ x 10’ area with an Adoption Sign identifying your special bed.

We have a reverse tithe system where 90% of your harvest will be delivered to our local outreach missions and 10% you may keep for yourselves. All adoptees are invited to participate in a Veggie Swap with other adoptees to share our bounty together later this fall. We will be planting vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, onions, garlic, beets, carrots, pumpkin, radishes in addition to flowers and herbs. Soil and bed prep is taking place NOW – every Saturday morning starting in September (check website calendar) and planting begins mid-late September and well into October.

Contact us through gtggvolunteers@gmail.com if you are interested in adopting a bed this fall. Judy Walden, our Volunteer Coordinator will work with you to secure your bed, customize your sign, and coordinate when you will plant between September 13 and October 25. If you can’t plant, we have plenty of volunteers who will be happy to dig in the dirt for you! We have a limited number of beds so it’s first-come-first-served. Checks are payable to Living Streams Church, note Growing Together in memo. Please mail to: Annie Mittelstaedt, 6816 N. 2nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85012.

Thank you for being part of the garden community and helping us nurture our mission to serve others! See you soon!

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

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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:

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Generosity and Hope: A Fruitful Combination at Dunn Orthodontics

Susan Williams, Judy Walden, Annie Mittestaedt and Ronda Cronin receive a $1,000 donation from Dr. Courtney Dunn of Dunn Orthodontics.

Susan Williams, Judy Walden, Annie Mittestaedt and Ronda Cronin receive a $1,000 donation from Dr. Courtney Dunn of Dunn Orthodontics.

Thank you Dunn Orthodontics for your generosity and support of Growing Together Giving Garden in helping us continue to make a difference in our community. Earlier this year, we were selected by Dunn to participate in their Our HOPE Phoenix Charities project, “an organization dedicated to helping LOCAL charities with the HOPE of making our community a better place.”

Throughout the spring with YOUR website votes we recently received a $1000 donation from Dunn. Thank you, Thank you!!!! Each year with Our HOPE Phoenix Charities, Dunn Orthodontics continues to take their charitable giving to a new level this year by donating $18,000 to local Phoenix community charities. Their extravagant generosity promotes a “pay it forward” philosophy which encourages others to do the same. We are extremely grateful to have been a partner with the Our HOPE project this year and will continue paying it forward in our garden community, just like Dunn Orthodontics does. Please check out the Our HOPE Phoenix

Charities and see how Dunn has impacted the lives of so many. Check out their website at www.dunnorthodontics.com to learn more about them and the other organizations they have supported throughout our community!

July’s volunteer of the Month: Leslie McLaughlin

Screen shot 2014-07-04 at 10.26.30 PMI found the garden by driving by on Glendale. I remembered the vacant lot and was so happy to see the beautiful garden. At the time, I was looking to volunteer at a community garden and Growing Together was just a perfect fit. I have been looking for opportunities to address the issue of food insecurity. My family has been donating food and supplies to various human service agencies in Phoenix for a number of years, and a garden experience is an even more direct way to help with this need. I am most interested in addressing child hunger so donating the crops from Growing Together to food banks and places like the Dream Center complete the circle and in our way we are making a difference in peoples’ lives. And, another benefit from this volunteer experience is that I have found a group of people of like minds who like to grow good food and who want to encourage good nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

June’s Volunteer of the Month: Camden Katz

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camden2June’s Giving Garden Volunteer of the Month has been in process for quite some time . . . and will continue through 2014. Camden Katz and his 5th grade students from Tesseract School came to the garden earlier this year on a field trip with volunteer parents and his teacher, Adopt-a-Bed garden enthusiast and friend, Mrs. Jordana Hale, to learn, serve and grow in the knowledge of the garden.

After their visit, Camden and his Mom, Lisa, approached us about adopting a garden bed for one year. “Camden has picked Growing Together as his Mitzvah project this year. He will have a Bar Mitzvah in another year and has chosen this project to contribute back to the community,” said Lisa. When asked why this project, Camden responded, “I just wanted to help others.”

His first project will be to grow cantaloupe. He will be in charge of visiting it regularly to make sure weeds are cleared and everything is growing smoothly. He will then harvest the finished product in July and then donate it to the missions we serve in our community. He will also volunteer at the shelter with the children to better understand why his time is so helpful to others less fortunate.

Thank you Growing Together for allowing Camden to be reminded why it is so important to help others and thank you, Lisa and Camden for growing together with us.

May’s Volunteer of the Month: Hadley Hoeft

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Hadley Hoeft is being taught the concepts of giving, saving and spending when it comes to money. Whether it is a gift she receives, loose change she finds or money she earns, Hadley divides it out
into these 3 categories: Give/ save/ spend.

You see, Hadley is 4 1/2 years old and wants to help others.

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As her Mom and Dad, one day we asked her what she wanted to do with her “give money.” She replied, “I want to buy healthy food for kids that don’t have any”. We said, “Ok, how can we do that?” Hadley said, “We can buy fruits and vegetables and pass them out at the food bank, not the money bank” (Previously we had toured a food bank and made a food drive donation last year).

Thinking there had to be a better way, we researched online what options were out there and found Growing Together Giving Garden. We presented it to her and she was all in! She was excited about the possibilities to be able to grow healthy food for kids.

We emailed Growing Together and they made it so easy and welcoming to Adopt-a-Bed this spring. A few weeks later, Hadley’s Harvest was born!

We explained that she would have to save up the money to have her own garden bed, so she decided she wanted to earn the money. We asked how she would earn it and she said, “I can set up a lemonade stand.” Knowing it took a little more resources, we explained to her how to ask for help to get the goods and supplies donated.

She made a list and requests for donation. The great people at Anthem Fry’s and Cave Creek Costco donated $15 and $25, respectively. We told her that 100% of the lemonade profits could go to the cause (We don’t know if she full grasps that concept, but it was a start). We gave her options of locations to set up the stand, what to sell and how much to sell. Hadley wanted to sell the little orange Cuties to provide a healthy option, and she did the rest (with support from us of course).hadley2

The morning came for the lemonade stand and she woke up bright and early – ready to go as we got
set up an hour earlier than planned. We raised $100 in 4.5 hours (Funny, because she just turned 4 1/2, which was our goal).

There was no way did we think we would raise the entire amount in one day! She didn’t want it to end and asked if we can do it again. We explain to her that she did met her goal, however, she said “but if I raise more I can give more.” So, we are in the planning stages of our next event.

Back at the garden, after planting tomatoes seedlings and squash seeds, we asked Hadley how it made her feel. She said, “My heart feels good, can we do it again?” She also learned about composting and added some to her bed to give it a vitamin boost. She thought Rocky, the Recycle Dog from Paw Patrol, would be proud of her.

I asked her what she likes about the garden. Hadley said, “I felt good because I was giving. I liked planting, digging and reusing horse poop (out of the mouths of babes) and I wanted kids who have
zero food to have healthy choices.”

As her parents, all we did was plant ideas for her to grow (pun intended). This was all her with a little
guidance from us. Hadley is the inspiration, and although we are biased, some would agree that she
is an amazing little girl with the biggest heart and a compassionate soul. We are here to support her
and help her make her dream a reality.

Hadley’s favorite vegetables are kale (our favorite salad is kale based) and broccoli. She loves her juice (spinach, apple, celery, carrots, freshly made in our juicer). Apples are her favorite fruit, although she has tried everything from dragon fruit to lychee.

She wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, but said she wants to always have a garden at her house so she can have healthy food close by.

Recently Hadley overheard the pool construction workers talking about getting pizza for lunch and she ran inside and said, “Mommy we have to make them a healthy lunch instead of going for pizza.”

So we did!

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