Perched atop the North Lake College gymnasium is the college’s community garden, connected by a walkway to the A building and Performance Hall. The garden is a peaceful spot with a panoramic view of the Central Campus and its lake. But despite its tranquil appearance, the college garden bustles with activity.
Manuella Logbo, Vice President of Service for Phi Theta Kappa’s NLC chapter, has been volunteering in the garden since fall 2014 and took charge of it in May 2015. “The community garden means a lot to me,” Logbo says. “It is the place where I began to be involved on campus and where my journey as a leader started. I had never volunteered in my life, so it was a completely new experience.”
Logbo says that volunteers are growing a huge array of herbs and vegetables: “rosemary, mint, jalapeños, lettuce, banana peppers, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and watermelon. As of now, we only have baby plants, which will be harvested during the summer.”
Volunteering for “dirt therapy”
Over the summer months, when the campus student population decreases, the garden will still be well cared-for. Calls for faculty and staff gardeners received such an enthusiastic response that each individual plot will have its own caretaker.
One staff volunteer, Career Services director Dawn Gomez, says, “I plan on growing red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and red and green onions, as well as marigolds to keep bugs away.” Gomez, echoing many of the volunteers, said she volunteered because of her support for sustainability and service, and also added that gardening serves as a form of “dirt therapy.”
Sunitra Todewale and Paula Helmke, both from the accounting office, plan to share a plot with basil, bell peppers, and possibly okra if there is space. Todewale and Helmke come from families of farmers and agree that, as Helmke says, “I guess it’s in my blood.”
Feeding the less fortunate
The fruits (and vegetables) of this labor benefit less-fortunate NLC students. “The community garden was an initiative of Phi Theta Kappa,” Logbo explains. “Its purpose was, and still is, to provide organic and free spices and vegetables to students who cannot afford them.”
The Student Life office and Blazer Student Store distribute the garden’s produce to students in need and garden volunteers. Extras may be offered to the rest of the campus community. For several years, this service has been an aid to North Lake’s less economically secure students.
The community garden benefits its caretakers, too. Manuella Logbo reflects, “Gardening taught me a big life lesson: you learn more from your failures than your successes.” It wasn’t just about learning the different kinds of plants and how to tend them, she says. The biggest lesson Logbo discovered: “Patience and hard work always pay off.”