By Dawn M. Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–When young people from the Cedar City Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) get together at the empty lot behind Caring and Sharing Hands, they will find plenty of weeds and dirty work to do.
Though none of them are avid gardeners, they ‘love to make a difference’ in the community, says Cindy Rose, a long-time mentor of young volunteers and coordinator, Five County Association of Governments. “And it’s much more than planting seeds in bedding boxes.”
“We have families here who can’t afford or who don’t buy fresh produce,” said Rose of community needs. “The garden encourages young people to address community needs. It’s about inspiring them for a lifetime — learning how to give back to the community, to make new friends and grow relationships.”
Today, they will plant onions, tomatoes, beans – things that backyard gardeners choose for their own yard. “We have also had residents and business people support us through their donations or in-kind,” said Rose of Ladybug Nursery that offered up mulch and of some initial plant-lings.”
The newest garden in town is situated behind the Caring and Sharing Hands pantry. According to Rose, the garden will provide hands-on experience about real-world need. As a manager for homeless prevention, Rose involved young people in the issues of need and how they can make a difference in the lives of low-income families.
Sometimes the message they hear is about food need in other parts of the world, but not the issues in their own hometown or for the neighbors down the block.
“There are families in the county who will benefit by having fresh produce on pantry shelves,” said Rose. She points out that many food donation sites offer canned or pre-packaged goods, “but with this garden, we there will be fresh items to choose from.”
According to Rose, more than $200 in garden project ‘seed money’ was provided through a grant submitted by three young people with the Youth Volunteer Corp (YVC).
“We discovered that 25 plus garden boxes were built previously, offered to local residents who wanted to start a box-garden in their backyard,” said Rose. While the garden space is full of weeds with empty boxes of dirt and mulch, they represent the beginning of a community project. “Today, we will start to clear ground, planting beans, with some grape vines along the fence line.”
The Youth Volunteer Corp represents teens, ages 11 to 18 who volunteer in service at assisted living facilities, at food collection sites, in after-school reading projects, and for community events – Utah Summer Games, Campfire in the Canyon concerts, at local animal shelter. This summer, YVC will be selling bottles of water in a fundraiser at the Frontier Homestead Museum “Folk Life Festival” set for June 22-23.
“The garden is also a way to grow friendships and to develop great leadership skills,” said Rose. Monthly meetings are held the first Thursday of the month at the Iron County Visitor Center and there is a taxi service that enables students to attend a meeting or to work on projects following classes.
The YVC organization is currently supporting the Donation Drive Away at www.careandshare-ut.org with the winning entry (for a new jeep) to be announced at the July Jamboree. “We know that gardening and service is an important part of our roots here.” To volunteer for a (YVC) service project, call 435-867-8384 or visit Five County Association of Governments.
Photo Caption: (left to right) Izzy Eastep, Halle Romine, Cindy Rose, coordinator; Mikayla Solo, Charlotte Carter and Kaitlyn Anderson gather shovels, mulch and plant-lings at the Community Garden. (photo by J. Aerts)