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!!!


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

Madison Meadows Middle School made a difference on Make a Difference Day in the Garden


Madison Meadows Middle School recently had the opportunity to get involved with the Growing Together Giving Garden in North Central Phoenix through the Madison Meadows Charitable Acts Committee.

Last Saturday, October 26th was Make A Difference Day, a nation-wide day of community service. The Charitable Acts Committee came in full force to clean, plant, dig, harvest, compost — basically do whatever it took to serve their community! Britton Sanchez, the adult leader of the program and 15 students shared their thoughts about making a difference in the garden.

“What a great idea the garden is!  As the students have a chance to assist in the garden week after week, they continue to ask when they’re able to go back.  On the most recent visit, after watching vegetables be harvested and boxed, the students were intrigued to know just a few hours of hard work would serve our community in such a generous way.  They really enjoyed learning about how long the food takes to grow, what’s required, and how much help this provides our own neighborhood.

A day in the garden meant more than community service to the Madison Meadows students.

After volunteering, the students were excited to learn more about planting, gardening, and what more they could do to get involved with this amazing gem.  We recently started by signing up for just 1 day, but as the students attend their time in the garden, they continue to ask when they can attend again.  We have since signed up for additional days, working toward attending at least twice per month.  The garden has given them a place to work as a team, help the community, and learn.  The garden is full of wonderful people who want to give their time to Make a Difference.”

Thank you for allowing our Madison Meadows students to be a part of this wonderful experience!

More pictures from the Make a Difference event:

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Make a Difference at Growing Together


1026differenceMake A Difference Day is Saturday, October 26th, the nation’s largest day of community service.

It’s a day where millions of volunteers will unite to improve the lives of others in their communities. Please join us in the garden the morning of the 26th and be part of helping our garden continue to grow and serve fresh fruits and vegetables in our community. Check out for more information about this annual event.

For Growing Together, it is our third year of celebrating our service to our community through the garden. In addition to garden fun, we will have entertainment, food, a raffle and more. Our special theme for this year is “Our Volunteers Rock!” so you don’t want to miss a celebration of YOU!

We hope to see you in the garden on the 26th. Stop by anytime between 8:00 am and 12:00 noon.



Eagle Scout Sammy Pistorius and his troop builds a washing station


sammy2Garden friends,

I am Sammy Pistorius from troop 147. For my Boy Scout Eagle Project I designed and, with the help of my troop, built a washing station for the Growing Together Giving Garden earlier this spring. It was a fun and long process that started a few months ago. The washing station included a tub with a draining system, a quadruple faucet to fit all their needs for specific watering options, pavers to stand on, a shade canopy, and hooks for hanging trash bags and paper towels. I am very happy with the outcome and want to thank the garden for giving me the opportunity to support the garden in our community. Thank you so much for this experience!





Eagle Scout Augie Diaz makes a difference


Hello garden volunteers and supporters!

My name is Augie Diaz and I have been working on my Eagle Scout project with Growing Together since August 2012.  On March 3, 2013 I brought a crew of 33 Scouts, adults and myself to the garden for a work day.

My troop began … painting the shed a nice tan color picked by the garden ladies.  I came a few days earlier and with the help of two other Scouts we power washed the shed, removed the rust and primed the freshly cleaned areas.  With a sprayer the shed was painted quickly and efficiently.  Turning that white shed to a tan color really made the garden look nice and fit into the environment much better.

While one crew painted the shed, another crew worked finishing the mesh fencing.  With a compressor and a stapler, the open sections were fitted with wire mesh to finish securing the garden.  During this process the gates were reinforced and fixed so that they would operate better and were more structurally sound.

A third crew was busy on what most people probably notice more at the garden, the mosaic benches.  I was lucky enough to find a volunteer who creates handmade mosaic tiles and she agreed to bring some to the garden and help us install two benches with a custom mosaic design.  The crew members would worked on this were able to create their own mosaic designs with all kinds of tiles to choose from.  These two benches were a nice addition to the garden.  We also installed a bit a art in front of the vegetable washing station to mark the two Troop 147 Eagle Projects now completed.

Finally, since I had more helpers than I expected (which was great), I was able to direct some additional berm building inside the garden and weeding along Glendale Avenue.We contributed at total of 234 hours to the Garden and it really looked nice to start the spring season at Growing Together.

Thank you for allowing our Boy Scout Troop 147 to conduct two Eagle Projects in your beautiful garden.  We enjoyed it and I drive by the Garden all the time and I feel like I contributed to my community.  When finals are over, you will see me and my brother at a few of your work days!

Thank you,

Augie Diaz, T147






Early bird Tuesdays!

tuesday3Some say that “the early bird catches the worm” but at Growing Together, A Giving Garden, the “early bird” has been catching an amazing opportunity to experience a beautiful sunrise, quality interactions with like-minded volunteers, and the chance to do work worth doing.

For the last few months volunteers like Candace, Diane, Joanne, Allen, Ronda and Susan have been meeting before 7am on Tuesdays to work on projects like scouting plants for the dasterdly tomato hornworms; thinning fruit trees;  harvesting and braiding garlic (so it may dry) and fantastic vegetables for our local charity partners; planting pickling cucumbers and extraordinary beans; weeding; watering; and relishing in nature and the wonder of “the little seed going down and the vibrant plant popping up!”

tuesday2As Wise Candace said this week, “We are there to give, but we take away SO much more than we ever expected with our fellowship and the opportunity to learn from each other.”

Come join us!  Our next Early Bird Tuesday mornings are June 11 & June 25  (6:30 – 8:00 am), found on our website calendar.