Green Thumbs for a Good Cause: Volunteers Learn to Garden and Give Back to Community

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Queens, NY

By Katie Vasquez

Tomatoes, yellow string beans, and basil are all grown organically thanks to some nuns in Hampton Bays.

The Sisters of St. Joseph said the Good Ground Heritage Garden is about caring for God’s creation and sowing the seeds of that in others.

“We have to draw from Pope Francis, seeing his belief in the earth, and the sacredness of it, and the sharing of it with one another,” said Sister Kerry Handal, of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Once a week volunteers go to St. Joseph Villa, where they learn to get their hands dirty by planting, cultivating, harvesting, and preserving produce in a cooperative learning environment.

“It’s a nice program to be able to kind of get the community involved, get some volunteers out, plant everything, watch it grow, see how it produces,” Devan Kuettner, a volunteer, said.

“I garden just for pleasure not production like trying to produce like poundage, but this is more focused on that and that’s interesting to learn about to me,” Grant Babis, a volunteer, said.

Even though the volunteers are gardening for fun, these crops are going to a good cause.

Just this season, more than 1,000 pounds of fresh produce from this garden was donated to the food pantry at nearby St. Rosalie Church. Up to 400 people a week rely on these vegetables to feed their families.

“It is the dignity of our client that we are most concerned with,” Catherine O’Leary Andrejack, the director of parish social ministry at St. Rosalie Church said. “So when you go shopping as a consumer, that fresh produce is the golden food that you’re gonna be bringing home.”

With more than five seasons of growing and giving, the volunteers have donated thousands of pounds of food, cultivating a sense of community, one string bean at a time.