by Leah Ellis
The local chapter of the Plant a Row Campaign has provided fresh produce to the local food bank.
The vegetables grown in the Community Garden supplemented the items the Food Bank provided to local families in need of assistance this summer. It is also a demonstration of what can be achieved when multiple organizations collaborate on a common goal.
The Cameron University group Moms and Dads on Campus began looking for a way to use the Community Garden to help locally. The decision was made to begin a campus chapter for Plant a Row and word spread to other organizations that offered their support and services. The 580 Roller Girls helped prepare the garden by pulling weeds, and setting the rows. Sigma Tau Delta volunteers offered a day of labor, and The Native American Club worked weekends watering, pulling weeds and harvesting vegetables.
Teri McGrath, advisor for Moms and Dads on Campus, says that using Facebook as a means of mass communication was a great tool. On more than one occasion, the garden needed extra help with weeding and watering. McGrath posted the need for assistance and received answers from many willing volunteers. She said that gardening is a lot of work and that it was a great experience for the participants.
There were several picnics held and the support from the community was encouraging. For one of the picnics, Sonic sent out the Cherry Limeade mascot and cherry limeades. There is a “Hoedown” in the works as the project finale for this season and it will be open to the public. McGrath hopes that interested members of the community and anyone who wishes to volunteer for the next growing season will come out and enjoy the entertainment and discuss the goals and information for the next growing season.
“Next year we are going to emphasize education and community out-reach. We would like to help people with their gardens at home. We will need the support of more Cameron organizations and more volunteers,” McGrath said.
Volunteers were the backbone for this project. They came out to water the plants and pick the harvest despite this summer’s record heat wave. Caring for the plants in such hot conditions was no easy feat. While the squash and okra were great producers, the efforts of the volunteers were no help for the tomatoes. The volunteers worked in shifts, morning and evening, watering the plants.
Dawn Bona, an Instructor for the English Department, was one of the many volunteers who spent time in the heat working in the garden. Bona decided it was a great opportunity to teach her twin sons more about gardening and the rewards of giving back to the community.
“My children were very excited to know that they were helping to provide food for needy families, and they felt a sense of worth and accomplishment as a result of their work,” Bona said.
Bona’s family would often wait until the heat of the day subsided in the evening to come out and water the plants.
The Bonas weeded, planted and helped the garden in any way they could. The experience was a positive one for Bona and her children, she said. She is looking forward to being involved again next year although she hopes the heat will not be the issue that it was this year. Bona and her sons are only a few of the many volunteers who worked hard to make the campaign a success. Bona said her role was very small compared to what she received in the knowledge that she was helping Moms and Dads on Campus make a difference for local families and The Food Bank.
The Lawton Food Bank has expressed their appreciation for the ability to share fresh produce to struggling local families by helping the group in a couple of important ways. They have provided a shed for the storage of the donated garden tools until next year’s work begins.
McGrath says they are also helping spread the call for volunteers. With the current economy, more families have been seeking the assistance of the Food Bank, which is supported through the donations of local citizens. The vegetables provided by Plant a Row Campaign this summer helped meet the needs of these families and provided a rewarding experience for those involved.