When I came back it was surprising to find how much had developed and how much had stayed the same. Immediately, I realized that four years earlier I was modestly successful in implementing a small scale systematic change. Although things seemed to go in the direction I thought, they also followed a radically different path and Grow Food Grow Hope seemed to develop its own personality. Now as we officially begin to close out the AmeriCorps VISTA program, I have had a chance to reflect and realize that what was once a small seed of an idea has grown and blossomed into something monumental. Our final group of AmeriCorps VISTA members completed their term of service on June 14th. Max Webster, Nellie Ashmore, Erin Richardson, Desirae Bedford and Nellie Ashmore spent their year helping solidify the scope of Grow Food Grow Hope as well as increase the number of individual we serve.
This summer Trent Hython, Whitney Rymer, Tina Ledington, Kasey Cottrell, Jacob Fugate, Dakota Hruby, Jake Greer, Josh York, Joe Njeru, Kyle Marsh and Kristin Finkbeiner have chosen to serve as Summer Associates and have all made huge strides in turning Grow Food Grow Hope into a program that can be run by students while still focusing on alleviating poverty and increasing access to fresh produce.
Like a seed, the Summer Associates and former AmeriCorps VISTA members have each grown into a large force that have transformed our Grow Food Grow Hope program and have been able to change lives, including my own. I am always impressed and surprised by the great strength and agility of our service members. Specifically last year, I have seen tremendous growth in their skills and confidence. Like a cucumber I have seen their leaves grow and their reach extend. Watching them develop their skills reminds me a lot of a cucumber plant crawling along the ground as the vines grow. As the vines grow they attach to the surrounding items. In my garden the cucumbers attach to tomatoes, onions and grass, but when directed and trained they will climb a trellis and produce even more cucumbers. Through the years, our AmeriCorps VISTA members have been cucumbers. As directed by Wilmington College they have blossomed into bright young professionals, each one of them capable of taking on more and more tasks. There is no end to their potential. As the end of our AmeriCorps Grant approaches there is an evident appreciation to the Corporation for National and Community Service who administers the AmeriCorps VISTA grant but also to all of those at Wilmington College who have impacted the lives of the members over the years. I am excited for the next step Grow Food Grow Hope will take as students begin assuming responsibility and continue to grow the seeds planted by our former VISTA members. What was once a small seed will grow into a much larger and stronger plant!
Tony Staubach, Project Manager