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Volunteer Gardener Makes Impact

It’s no secret that Rachel’s Table owes much of its success to its passionate group of volunteers. Mallory Probert Caplan is one of them. One year ago, Mallory joined the first roster of volunteers for our newly launched Growing Gardens initiative. This initiative, which was made possible thanks to generous support from the Arbella Insurance Foundation, provides mentoring and material support for any of our 56 agencies who want to grow their own food with their communities.

In her role as Growing Gardens Liaison, Mallory is a much-needed on-the-ground point of contact and support between Rachel’s Table and one of our Growing Gardens partner agencies, Community Support Option’s (CSO) Friends of the Homeless residential community in Springfield.  Mallory shares her gardening knowledge and works with CSO staff and RT Program Coordinator Jay Levine, who leads the Growing Gardens initiative at RT, to ensure the garden plans are moving forward accordingly.

Through her volunteer work as Growing Gardens liaison, Mallory has worked with Friends of the Homeless to share her love of gardening with other groups in the community. She has educated young children at the Rebecca Johnson Elementary School about growing plants and taught them to winter sow. In addition, she planted the seeds sown by the young students in the FOH garden with veterans from Barnes Airforce Base.

Thanks to volunteers like Mallory, Friends of the Homeless is already harvesting from the garden and has provided residents with a tranquil place to hang out. Most interestingly, the tomatoes, cucumbers, snow peas and peppers Friends of the Homeless has harvested were grown from seeds in Mallory’s own basement over the winter!

According to Mallory, “the focus of the efforts of our FOH cohort have been to foster a sense of community and create shared goals within a diverse population. The guests at FOH are interacting in new, positive ways. They experience the success of the garden through observation, caring for it, harvesting healthy food, engaging in meal preparation, and eating together. It is a winning formula for emotional and physical personal advancement in an otherwise challenging life-situation.”

The success of several communities coming together for sustainable food access is a partnership worth sustaining. There is more to do to get more residents and FOH volunteers involved, but we’ll get there. With Mallory in the mix, anything can grow! If you’d like to volunteer your time and gardening skills in our Growing Gardens initiative, email Jay Levine jlevine@jewishwesternmass.org.

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