Oakland University volunteers make a difference for Macomb County 4-H garden
As part of Oakland University’s (OU) celebration of Make a Difference Day, more than 40 OU students spent the day improving the 4-H garden at the Max Thompson Family Resource Center in Warren.
While service and volunteerism are one of the foundational components of the Michigan 4-H program, Michigan State University Extension’s Macomb County 4-H program found itself on the receiving end of service on Oct. 16. As part of Oakland University’s (OU) celebration of Make a Difference Day, more than 40 OU students spent the day improving the 4-H garden at the Max Thompson Family Resource Center in Warren.
“I can’t thank them enough,” said Lizz Duran, Macomb County MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator. “They accomplished so much in just one day. It would have taken us a year to complete that work ourselves.”
The 4-H garden at the Max Thompson Family Resource Center has been home to many youth events since its inception in 2015. MSU Extension has used the garden to host activities for Michigan 4-H, a youth development program for children ages 5-19.
“The garden has allowed hundreds of urban youth to experience hands-on educational garden science,” explained Duran. “Gardening is not just a six-week summer project in 4-H; we use it all year round. Kids learn topics like how to plan and start their garden, how to maintain the garden, what pests you want in the garden, what you do about unwanted pests and so much more. Our health and nutrition experts also use it to teach about healthy living and how to prepare and preserve produce.”
Though the garden was of incredible importance, it fell into disarray during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the safety of MSU Extension professionals and participants, 4-H interactions were virtual for much of 2020 and the garden was not able to be adequately cared for. As a result, the garden became overgrown and some of the table-top beds were in need of repair. Facing an overwhelming task, Duran reached out to OU’s graduate assistant of leadership and service programs, Emily Bernas, and asked for help.
“We wanted to do all we could to help,” said Bernas. “Sending the volunteers to MSU Extension was an easy decision to make, especially knowing we would help to save gardens in the process."
Thanks to Bernas’ collaboration, Duran was delighted to see more than 40 OU students come to her aid for Make a Difference Day. Thanks to their partnership, all the raised beds were repaired, cleaned out and refilled with clean compost. Some of the beds were even replanted and the garden is now ready for a fresh start in the spring.
“I was glad to help,” said Connor Jabro, a student who volunteered. “When I saw what we accomplished, I was amazed.”
“When I heard about the garden for urban kids, I thought that was so cool,” said another student volunteer, Teresa Perez. “To provide kids activities about growing food, I wanted to do that!”
Over the years, the garden has received other gifts of generosity as well, including supplies funded by the Walmart Healthy Habits grant from the Walmart Foundation.
“Our 4-H gardening programs are so important to the Macomb County youth,” said Duran. “The time and service provided by the OU student truly did make a difference and will continue to do so as the garden impacts youth in the years to come.”
Volunteers are essential to the success of the Michigan 4-H program. Whether they serve in short-term episodic ways, such as the OU students, or through long-term leadership roles, Michigan 4-H would not be possible without the support of more than 13,000 volunteers who give their time each year. To learn more about becoming a Michigan 4-H volunteer, visit the Michigan 4-H website.