New Orleans, LA—Helping others makes us happy. Volunteering raises positivity, strengthens our bodies’ resilience, increases confidence and even lengthens our lifespans, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
It made perfect sense, then, to spend our first Whole Cities Foundation volunteer day restoring a community garden and making friends at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center in the heart of the Tremé neighborhood, a short walk from the ReFresh project.
The Center is a local hub where people of all ages take health classes, learn job skills, and enjoy creative programming. It’s an ideal place for a community food garden to take root and be tended. However, the existing six raised beds were filled with weeds and hard, packed landscaping dirt that could not grow food.
It took an energetic collaboration to get the garden growing and healthy again. Employees from the area’s three Whole Foods Market stores, Whole Cities Foundation staff, and partners from the ReFresh project came together with neighbors on a hot day in August, 2014. With elbow grease, laughter, shovels and wheelbarrows, we emptied the beds of old dirt and refilled them with local, compost-rich soil. Seniors planted the first round of fresh green bean seeds, ready to sprout.
Lots of sweat and a few months later, the garden is growing strong and the first crop of beans has arrived. With support from ReFresh partner SproutNOLA, residents from the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center will plan and nurture the next season’s garden from seed to harvest—and enjoy delicious fresh vegetables grown in community.