kindness activist

kindness activist

Friday, March 4, 2016

Gardening Kindness

I think I first heard of the Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Community Garden when I saw an invite for a free outdoor showing of the movie “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” happening there.  I mean, I had HEARD of the garden, which is only a couple of blocks from my house, but I guess it had never really caught my attention until the possibility of sitting in it while eating popcorn and watching a Charlie Brown classic film came my way.
Always a good one to watch in the autumn
Now that I know some more about the garden, I realize it is good for MUCH MORE than showing movies.  J  It is quite amazing, really!!

TJ Middle School Community Garden
Our neighbor Keturah (Kitty) is a Girl Scout.  We have known her ever since she was teeny tiny and didn’t know how to give us proper change for the lemonade we bought at her stands.  But now she is a senior in high school and her Girl Scout Troop, number 557, were the FOUNDING FARMERS of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Community Garden.  It was their Silver Award Project, and what a fine project it was/is!

The Girl Scouts were in 6th grade when their idea of a community garden was born.  They were inspired by Michelle Obama’s White House Garden and Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard (see the end of this piece for more information about those inspirations).  They chose it as their Silver Award Project for many reasons; to try and improve school lunches, to connect to the environment, because it was a great community activity, and, as Troop member Hayley put it, “Planting new plants will help the air become cleaner and better for the earth.”

The White House Garden, one of Troop 557's inspirations for their garden
The project not only helped the Girl Scouts learn about nature and gardening, it also required them to polish their presentation skills since they needed to present to the PTA, the neighborhood community association, and the City Council.

They got the approvals they needed, painted some lovely signs, and got donated wood to make the fence and raised beds.  Then they were OFF – prepping a barren plot of land behind the local middle school.  Of course, starting a big garden from scratch is not EASY, and Girl Scout Emely explained some of the challenges they faced, “…bad soil, access to water, and discouragement”.

Working on their lettuce crop
But by Spring of 2011 they were ready to put in seedlings!  Arlington, VA has an amazing program called the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) (a community based non-profit that provides supplemental groceries to people in need), and AFAC has a Plot Against Hunger program.  Ms. Puwen Lee, the Plot Against Hunger coordinator, brought the Scouts seedlings to get the garden started. 

Their garden produces a LOT of healthy, organic veggies!!

And get started they did!!  They planted their first crop in 2011 and other members of the community pitched in, too.  Students from TJ helped in the garden.  Portions of their harvests were donated to AFAC and in that very first season they donated over 400 lbs of fresh vegetables!!!  Isn’t that amazing??  Talk about making a difference in their community!  They have donated thousands of pounds of healthy produce since then.  Other members of the community help out in the garden, too.  It provides instruction, inspiration, and needed volunteer hours for groups around Arlington.

Have to get rid of the weeds!

It doesn't have to be ALL hard work, volunteers can have some FUN, too!
The troop and some TJ students were even lucky enough to get a tour of the White House garden, which had inspired them.  They say it is beautiful, but their garden is actually much BIGGER J

A tiny bit of the garden's bumper crop - isn't it beautiful?
I say Troop 557 and their leaders definitely qualify as Kindness Activists.  They put their heart, hands, and sweat into the garden and have donated so much healthy food to neighbors in need through AFAC.  THANK YOU for your work, Girl Scouts!  Your community appreciates it.
AFAC food donation receipt - one of many!
Another donation to AFAC!  The garden keeps on giving!

Now how about YOU?  Is there a lesson you can learn from these young girls?  Maybe you do not have a big yard to dig up and plant seeds…  Maybe you live in an apartment and do not have any land of your own.  But is there SOMETHING you can give back to your community?  Let these girls’ big actions be an inspiration to you. 

Gardening is hard work, but very rewarding
Troop 557 consists of:
Keturah Adair
Kathryn Carlson
Bryn Edwards
Deniz Gurler
Ali Michalowski
Hayley Roy
Emely Sanchez
Rebecca Wroblewski
With co-leaders Patty Adair and Marney Michalowski

To learn about the beginnings of the White House garden, which inspired Troop 557, see here  
To learn about Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA (another inspiration for the girls), see here
To learn more about AFAC, see here

Do you know of a Kindness Activist?  Tell me about them - send me an email at 

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