Volunteer Appreciation Month Spotlight: Jan’s Garden Volunteers
Volunteers are always an integral part of a non-profit, and Jan’s Garden at the North Texas Food Bank is no different.
When the volunteer program for the NTFB Garden Programs began in early 2020, things didn’t stay the same for long before Covid disrupted what little foundation had been built. One volunteer and I took care of the garden for the rest of 2020, until another volunteer joined in January of 2021. Soon after, weekly volunteer events got back on the calendar and Jan’s Garden began a Kernel (what we call our volunteer leaders) Program, which currently has 8 weekly committed volunteers! The garden wouldn’t be what it is without their hard work and leadership with our one-time volunteers.
Being a garden volunteer and kernel is not for the faint of heart. We do everything from the rewarding, like harvesting, to the down-right dirty tasks, like shoveling mulch and soil into new beds in the middle of summer. These challenging tasks can involve aches, sweat and more sweat, but there is never a complaint from the volunteers, only a knowing smile and comment about taking ibuprofen. Despite the rain, wind, heat and bitter cold, our committed garden volunteers and kernels have formed a camaraderie that is truly unique. They have the spirit of getting things done no matter what. Many of our one-time volunteers have become repeat volunteers, whom we have been able to get to know every week.
Volunteers and kernels in Jan’s Garden go above and beyond. Just recently, a garden volunteer took home two raised bed kits to build on his own time. A newer kernel recently converted all of Jan’s Garden plantings, schedules and inventory into a condensed document that makes tracking our countless garden activities significantly easier. Another kernel drops off the weekly harvest at the pantry each week. One kernel works full time but dedicates Tuesday mornings to volunteering in the garden, despite her busy family and work schedule. In the past, kernels have come in on weekends and over holidays to help hand water plants. Each of our kernels have come to the program organically and each have grown their gardening skills in ways that were unexpected. Here is what a few of these volunteers have to say about their experience:
My favorite part of Jan’s Garden is the community of volunteers and friends I have made, all while being able to celebrate the bountiful harvest of our labor for the community. – Amanda Tran
My favorite memory is of helping put together new processes and databases to support increased food production and planning. – Karen Gilboux
I volunteer in Jan’s Garden because of the harvesting — it may not be much, but what is harvested goes to neighbors that may not have it in their budget to buy fresh produce. – Taylor Hanna
Prior to volunteering, I enjoyed growing flowers in my garden. Now I’m an avid vegetable gardener and have learned so much from Emily and my fellow volunteers. And I have made friendships which I treasure. Digging in the dirt is a great bonding experience! – Kim Rollings
To be honest, Jan’s Garden’s group of volunteers and kernels is more like a garden club than a volunteer base. As we celebrate both Volunteer Appreciation Month and National Garden Month, I cannot express how thankful I am for the hard work, commitment and willingness (no matter the temperature) to help feed our neighbors facing hunger. A special thanks to our current garden kernels:, Gareth and Julie Buchanan, Karen Gilboux, Taylor Hanna, Renee Pryor, Kim Rollings, Amanda Tran and Isra Zulqarnain.
If you are interested in volunteering or becoming a garden kernel, sign-up to volunteer with us at https://ntfb.org/jans-garden/ and click the orange volunteer button. We hope to see you in the garden soon!
Emily Anderson is the Garden Specialist for the North Texas Food Bank.