Growing in community service Garden: A seventh-grader at Westminster Middle School puts his green thumb to work on a state graduation requirement and at the same time provides food for the needy.

September 10, 1996|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

One freckled-face South Carroll youngster has taken a school science project about potatoes, turned the soil a few times and is harvesting a bumper crop of community service hours.

"It all started as a science project in fifth grade," said Sam Robinson, 12, who has just begun the seventh grade at Westminster Middle School.

"The teacher gave us eight topics to choose from. I picked potatoes because I liked them and no one else was doing that. I didn't think about anything else but growing them."

That led Sam to realize that he had a green thumb. But what do you do with all the produce? The next year, as he and his classmates were receiving a pitch in the school gym about fulfilling their 75-hour community service graduation requirement, it dawned on him that he might be able to put his gardening skills to good use.

"We were at a meeting and studying different ways we could do community service," Sam said. "I asked, 'Do you think I could plant a garden and give the produce to charity as community service?' "

Food Sunday is suggested

Sam heard the answer he wanted, but his mother, Sarah, said he wasn't sure how to go about finding a charity that would accept fresh produce.

Since her company, Omni Computer Services, had helped Carroll County Food Sunday since 1989, his mother suggested the nonprofit group to her son.

"But I didn't give him any names," she said. "He did all the calling around himself."

Eventually, Sam found Tom Canon, operations manager for Carroll County Food Sunday, a nonprofit food assistance charity in Westminster.

Canon said of the young gardener, "He serves as an example of what community service can be. He learned a lot about gardening. He learned what one person can do. That's how Food Sunday works. Everyone puts a little bit in."

Showing a visitor a row of Big Boy tomatoes in his garden, Sam said his community service project almost got frozen out of existence.

"I planted my first crops in May," he said.

"I planted carrots, corn, broccoli, potatoes and tomatoes. The broccoli and the potatoes were the only things that survived. But the broccoli ending up being this big," he said, with hands nearly a foot apart. And the potato harvest totaled 50 pounds, Sam said with obvious pride.

Each day, he put in several hours, weeding and tending to the garden. The harvest started in mid-June.

Weekly task

"Each Saturday we would pack everything up and take it to the Food Sunday," Sam said. "My family and I did that every week."

Even with the heat, Sam said, he doesn't mind weeding the garden.

"I just would go out to my garden and weed and think that maybe I was helping someone," he said. "The more I weeded, the more I helped someone. The other night I was out until 8: 30 p.m." And that includes school nights these days.

"I'm planting lettuce now. I plan to keep a head or two for our pet rabbit, but the rest will go to the Food Sunday," he said.

Sam said he has earned 15 hours of community service through this year's gardening project.

"I've got 30 hours altogether," Sam said. "I think it [the community service requirement] is great. It gets kids ready for the real world. I plan to have my 75 hours by the time I'm in 10th grade."

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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