Cultivating Connections Through Volunteerism

Last updated: January 24, 2021, at 4:06 p.m. PT

Originally published: January 27, 2017, at 3:49 p.m. PT

It all started nearly four years ago, when a University Y member was concerned kids in the area weren’t getting nutritious food options.

Fellow Y members Annie Wilkins, Henry Noble, and Mike Fitch took on the task of building a community garden in the front landscaping of their Y.

These three dedicated volunteer horticulturists put in about five hours each week during the spring and summer time to cultivate and grow lettuce, tomatoes, peas, and other vegetables. The bounty is used to make salads for a teen feed for homeless young people on Sundays at the Y, as well as provide a fresh food source for anyone in the community who wants it.

“It’s very gratifying,” says Henry. “The fellowship of it, feeding people—I enjoy keeping it going.”

When Annie & Henry aren’t tending to the garden, they enjoy coming to the Y to stay healthy. Thanks to financial assistance, they’re able to enjoy the Y without worrying about their income. They’ve found a community of peers in their weekly Active Older Adult class.

“It’s nice to be able to hang out with your peers and reminisce,” says Henry. “We’re going through similar struggles—bodies do weird things as you age. You don’t have to explain everything, you can just be.”

Gardening is one of the many ways they give back to the community that has helped them.

“I do this because I love this place,” says Annie. “I love the people. It’s a family. The community helped us get where we are and we try to benefit the community.”