October 2016 – Volunteers of the Month

The McDonough Family

leah-finn-ciaraPlease join us in a rousing round of applause for Leah, Finnegan and Keira McDonough, our Volunteers of the Month for October.  Like many of our volunteers something here seems to have resonated with them and they can be found visiting the farm again and again.  It seems that they have found a great family activity and originally what was going to be an article written by our staff has turned into a question and answer session that can’t be matched as a story to inspire.  Thank you Leah, Mike, Finnegan and Keira for all you do to support Community Harvest Project we really appreciate your efforts.

How did you first hear of CHP?

I was working for a regional accounting firm and in 2008 the firm decided to host an annual Community Day of Caring.  I was on the committee for our Westborough office to plan the event and we had to search for organizations where our large office could volunteer.  In our search, we came across the Community Harvest Project and having moved to Grafton only a couple years earlier, I was surprised to find such a great organization was basically in my backyard.  CHP was a much smaller organization back then and did not have the reach that it does now.  It is wonderful to see how much it has grown and what a tremendous following of supporters it has generated over the last several years.

Why did you choose Community Harvest Project as a non-profit to support?

From the first time I volunteered as part of my former employer’s Community Day, I knew that the Community Harvest Project was a special place.  The people there were so caring, kind and invested in doing something for the greater good.  The first day I volunteered, I also signed up to become a Volunteer Team Leader and I really enjoyed that role for the next few years until I had my first child.  It is incredible how many people you meet from all walks of life who come together to help others while getting your hands a little dirty.  I have been very much looking forward to the day when I could take my children to get involved and as this past spring approached, I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty again!

 My kids and I enjoy looking at the choices of rows we can sponsor each year.  I always let them pick which fruit/vegetable they want to sponsor.  I also use it as vehicle to make an annual memorial contribution on behalf of two very close people that we lost a few years ago who meant a lot to both my husband, Mike, and myself.  It is great to be able to make a financial donation to a local organization where you can really see how that monetary support is used while also being able to make a donation on behalf of people who will forever remain in our hearts.  We very much value having a local organization like the Community Harvest Project that we can support both financially and personally.  The fundraising events are also tremendous and something the whole family can enjoy.

What are you hoping for Finnegan and Keira to experience and learn while volunteering here?

My original hope was to try to leave the farm a little better than when we first arrived each day, but to my surprise, my kids really took to farming too!  I wanted to encourage them to come with me to CHP with the hope that they would start to learn what it means to give back to your community, that it is important to help others and you can have a lot of fun doing it too.  I also hope that when they are a little older to be able to take them to the Worcester County Food Bank so they can not only be involved in the planting, weeding and harvesting of fresh produce, but also see where that produce goes and how many people can benefit from it.  Every year we make a point to go through our outgrown clothes and books/toys to donate to others who could use them.  I try to teach them about their neighbors and other community members not having as much as we might have, but to see it all first hand through the Community Harvest Project is such a tremendous feeling when you can donate your time and help others.  It is extremely gratifying!

What are your favorite things to do on the farm?  Least favorite?  How about Finnegan and Keira?

I really love it all!  Each day that we visit, we try to show up at the farm with a positive attitude and a willingness to take on any task that is needed.  Keira and Finnegan really seem to enjoy planting and they also really enjoy harvesting, especially when they could compete over who found the biggest pepper or squash.  They were also very interested in seeing all the groups, especially the young children their age that came on field trips from school.  I think it helped reinforce that there is a job for everyone at any age and with any ability or limitation.  I’m not going to lie, they definitely had days when they weren’t really into it and I did most of the work, but I would always encourage them and try to find a way to give them a job or responsibility so they contributed in some way that day.  Beyond the enjoyment of being outside and getting dirty as we work hard to help others, I really enjoy all the fascinating people that you get to meet.  This past year we met people young and old, local and from foreign countries, and everyone has a different story as to how they learned about CHP and why they were there on the farm that day.  What an extraordinary experience that can be shared!

What advice would you give to other families looking for a place to volunteer?

I would tell them don’t hesitate to try it out!  It is such a rewarding experience.  The staff are AMAZING and so engaged with the farm, the volunteers and the overall mission to aid in providing fresh produce to those in need.  Some days are hot and some are very wet, but knowing what an impact you are making as you see all of the other volunteers out there contributing their time and energy as they get dirty in an effort to help others, could not be more fulfilling.  There is a job or task for everyone as we all work together to help feed those that are hungry.

finn-keira-collageIs there anything else that you would like to add?

In an effort to really teach my kids what an impact their time and energy was making I created a collage of pictures and a log of all the things we did while on the farm in 2016.  We have this collage in our kitchen so we can see it every single day and acknowledge what a great job we did together.  I wanted to show them that while one visit may not seem like much, we really did a lot and when you add it all up, look at how much we accomplished over the growing season.

Thank you all for the time you put in over the season! The staff had a wonderful time getting to know the whole McDonough family, and watching the kids get more comfortable farming. We loved having you out and hope to see you in the spring!

Read the rest of the October 2016 Sprout!

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