Evan, 18, and Van Druff, 16, are among a group of students who are sowing the seeds that will eventually benefit those who are hungry in Lawrence. The girls are participants in a community service project spearheaded by the Pelathe center, 1423 Haskell Ave., and will grow and harvest vegetables for the center's food pantry.
"The garden is a way to help the center, and when I'm done here it makes me feel better," Van Druff said. "It will take a lot of hard work. We will be working on Saturdays and Tuesdays, and anybody can come and do this."
"It's a good learning experience, and it will help the community," Evan added.
Jessica St. Clair, a Kansas University junior studying psychology and sociology, and Colin Welsh, a KU law student, are coordinators for the garden project, which is funded by a $10,000 service/learning grant from the Kansas Office of Community Service.
The garden has three plots: One measures 60 feet by 39 feet; the other two each measure 13 feet by 60 feet.
St. Clair said the garden plan calls for the youngsters to plant seven rows of onions, 54 tomato plants, three rows of sweet peppers, one row of hot peppers, two rows of okra, four cucumber plants, four rows of squash, four rows of lettuce, three rows of cabbage and two rows of carrots.
The project is designed to help the young participants realize they can make a difference in the community, St. Clair and Welsh said.
"It can help the kids realize they are of consequence," Welsh explained.
Bruce Martin, a Pelathe center employee who wrote the grant, said the program also teaches volunteerism and commitment while building self-confidence and leadership skills.
"It's finding out what they can do and then giving them the confidence and opportunity to try something new," he said. "It's about the look on their faces when they have accomplished something they thought they couldn't do."
Martin said the program needs mentors for students, who range from elementary-age children to high school teens.
"They can teach them what to plant, what weeds to pull and not to pull, and how to plant the seeds," Martin said. "We'll throw in some tutoring, too. We'll have the tutoring maybe an hour before the gardening."
The grant also calls for the youngsters to work at WildCare Wildlife Rehabilitation, according to Martin. They will work with the local group to build a bird cage and help move a turtle pen to a shadier area.
-- Features-arts editor Jan Biles can be reached at 832-7146.