In the past few months, a 50 x 50 ft. organic community garden in Ames, IA called the Service Patch has hosted over 567 volunteers donating nearly 800 volunteer hours and 230 pounds of food to Iowa food pantries and shelters.
The garden, inspired by AmeZone, a youth service learning group, is facilitated by AmeriCorps VISTA members from the Volunteer Center of Story County and United Ames. AmeZone members focused their service learning projects for the year on issues of homelessness, poverty, hunger, nutrition, and the environment. The Service Patch project allows Iowa youth to learn about services available in our community for those experiencing homelessness or poverty, the importance of affordable nutritious foods, and the benefit of growing organic, local foods to the environment and the community.
The garden not only contains organic food but is also a place where community events and educational sessions are held. Expert speakers have led discussions on wide ranging topics from insects and composting to planting and harvesting practices and even homelessness; all designed for youth and community volunteers. An outdoor movie night and a concert with local musicians have brought community members together at the garden.
Many of our volunteers have come from Youth and Shelter Services, a nonprofit that serves at-risk youth. By bringing at-risk youth volunteers together with AmeZone and community volunteers, and through the educational sessions and community events, we are furthering the garden’s mission of “growing more than food.” The Service Patch is growing a positive community space where people from diverse backgrounds can come together to learn, build meaningful relationships, and focus on service as a way to address community needs.
You can get involved too—start a garden in your community!
Laura Logsdon is an AmeriCorps VISTA member and Volunteer Engagement Coordinator at the Volunteer Center of Story County. She helped to start and currently advises the Service Patch in partnership with United Ames (a diversity focused non-profit).