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Promise Garden Nourishes in Many Ways

Dakota Lord, left, and other Mitzvah Corps members are spending July volunteering with Elijah’s Promise.

On a steamy day in the middle of an early July heat wave, 16-year-old Dakota Lord was exactly where he wanted to be: tending the new “U-Pick” beds at Promise Garden in the heart of New Brunswick that would serve local residents who might not otherwise have access to fresh produce.

“I felt like there should be more giving back than getting,” said Dakota, who is from Massachusetts.

Dakota is spending July in New Brunswick with the Mitzvah Corps, a national summer camp program that places teens in community settings where volunteers are needed. While residing on the Rutgers campus, Dakota’s group is volunteering at Promise Garden, the Promise High Tunnel on the Cook Campus and also in the Community Soup Kitchen.

Suzy Jivotovski gives some garden pointers to Mitzvah Corps members at Promise Garden.

Community “work days” at the garden are catching on as a way to give back and spend a day in the sunshine, says Suzy Jivotovski, community food coordinator for Promise Ag. In May, “Team Depot,” composed of managers and associates from 10 area Home Depot stores, spent a day at at the garden building new ADA-accessible beds for people with disabilities. Teams from Johnson & Johnson and the Port Authority of NY/NJ also will be volunteering at the garden this summer.

“This is a busy time for Promise Ag, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the help these organizations and individuals are providing,” says Suzy.

If they’re like young Dakota Lord, the volunteers are gaining by giving.

“If we can afford this [Mitzvah Corps] camp, then we can definitely give a lot of our time to help other people,” says Dakota.

In addition to the community beds, Promise Garden  rents 49 private beds inside the fenced garden to local residents for $20 a season. Click here to learn more about Promise Agriculture.