After a week of preparing the deliveries, it was finally time to actually deliver the supplies to each of the community gardens participating in the Youth Leadership Council. There were a total of 9 different gardens, scattered across all the five boroughs and it was up to our small team of four to make deliveries to all these gardens. Each day we would load the forest green Ford truck, complete with roll-down windows by hand (the lift no longer worked) and drive through the snaking highways of New York City. And of course, with our luck, the week of deliveries turned out to be the hottest week of the summer, with temperatures hitting 95+ every single day.
My first delivery was to the 138th Street Community Garden in the South Bronx and I was beyond excited. After a month and a half of sitting in the office, I would finally be able to see the sites GreenThumb was responsible for. Although I was sure my work on excel spreadsheets was necessary for database upkeep, it had definitely isolated me from the real purpose of the organization, which was to help manage the community gardens run by volunteers. After a 30 minute ride over the Triborough Bridge we pulled up to a large lot with brightly painted fences.
My first reaction was shock – I had no idea a community garden could be this big and be so well maintained by volunteers. We quickly unloaded all of the materials the gardeners needed to build their compost bins, set up the stage railing and refresh the mural walls. With the help of three of the lead gardeners, we unloaded in half the time it took for us to ready the truck.
The 138th street garden was a mix of colors. Besides the obvious green from all the plants, the gardeners took special care to brighten the space by painting various man-made surfaces with other colors in the rainbow. There was a “yellow brick road” and faces painted on all the trash cans. The entire vibe was similar to the kids furniture section at Ikea: splashes of color dotted the landscape accompanied by various animal figurines.
One of the gardeners explained that the building across the street was a children’s homeless shelter. The volunteers at the 138th community garden decided to dedicate the space to the children, hence the figurines and cartoon murals. The stage was recently built in order to provide entertainment to the community by inviting local musicians to play and hosting movie nights in the summer.
As the first community garden within the GreenThumb organization I visited in person, the 138th Street Community Garden definitely holds a special place in my heart. The space was phenomenal and you could feel the love all the volunteers poured into each of the projects. The garden was much more than just a few raised beds with vegetables, it was a group effort that was open to all the residents of this area.
The visit definitely made my work at GreenThumb feel more impactful – even the month of excel spreadsheets and database entries. The transformation GreenThumb has helped make possible in just this one area has made me immensely proud of the work we do, as well as the work all the volunteers do to transform New York City. It has given me a new appreciation for the people who live in this city that I grew up in.