Heartfelt Volunteering: Greenhouse Project Grows More Than Food

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Lianna Mae Smith
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It’s amazing what a few hours a week of community service from a dedicated group of people can accomplish! My team, Xi Pi – the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at Polk State College – recently had such an experience. We spent some time volunteering in our on-campus greenhouse, making it beautiful and functional once again. The project was a great example of why volunteering can enrich our lives as well as the lives of others.

Rolling up our sleeves

The greenhouse had been built years before, but due to lack of manpower and general disinterest it had fallen into heavy disrepair. We selected it for our service project because it sat directly in the center of the campus for all to see. It had so much potential. Our first step was to remove what seemed like tons of depleted dirt from around the established plants. Bucket after bucket was hauled slowly out, because maneuvering carts was impossible in the enclosed quarters. We started many different food plants from seeds, like carrots, broccoli, tomatoes of all varieties, papaya, and peppers. We replaced the old soil with nutritious compost and rich peat moss. Then we installed our new plants around the ornamental plants that were already growing strong in the existing beds.

A greater payoff

One of the main goals of volunteering in the greenhouse was to raise fresh, organic food to be donated directly to our on-campus student assistance program. However the raised awareness for our hungry and homeless students was by far a greater payoff. By having a presence around campus as we completed our volunteer work, we were able to explain the issues that so many of the college’s students were facing.  Our work demonstrated that such hardship could be occurring where we don’t even expect it to.

Strong connections

This was a great project, not simply for our cause, but also for the enrichment of all the members who volunteered with us. We developed important skills such as practicing communication, networking within the community, and pitching and presenting concrete solutions to problems within our community. It was also a priceless chance for our members to learn about the actual hands-on aspects of working with plants and in a greenhouse.  The connections we made with each other are strong after so many hours collaborating in the hot Florida sun. The connections we made to our school, local businesses, and local charitable organizations are irreplaceable.

This project is just one example of volunteering at its finest. It was an activity that developed and improved not only the people that it is done for or the community, but also the volunteers themselves.  Did I mention that we were also able to write about this experience for a competition and even won sixth in the entire nation? Everyone should try volunteering. Find an organization or activity that truly speaks to you, so that you can have an impact and opportunity to grow, too!

Where are you going to volunteer and make an impact? Share with the Pearson Students community by commenting below!

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