Each summer, organizers at the West Huron Youth Club assist their younger members in maintaining a garden to grow vegetables for local organizations in need, club spokesman Gil Steinen said.
The club teaches its members how to plant, maintain and harvest food for their own survival. This practice has been a mainstay at the club for almost 30 years, although the donations began in 2009.
“We try to teach our members to think of the less fortunate people,” Steinen said. “We’ve always wanted to teach the skills of our forefathers, and the garden is an extension of that.” The club planted about 15 different vegetables in its garden recently, including tomatoes, green beans and lettuce. Club members harvest the produce in late August and early September. Once picked, the food is donated to organizations such as Victory Kitchen, Care and Share, and the Senior Center, Steinen said.
“Taking care of those who need help is our main responsibility in life,” Steinen said. “If our youth learn that, it’ll help these kids grow into better adults.”
The club hasn’t been without its challenges. In recent years. Attendance and club funds declined, a problem Steinen partly attributes to the recession.
Another challenge: Youth are trying to do too many things at once, he said.
There were about 100 members who maintained the garden at its peak, but that number has dipped to about 30 this year, Steinen said. “We’re hoping to attract more members, but it’s difficult to shake kids from everything else they seem to be involved in,” he said.
The club is a nonprofit funded through local donations and grants. Mulvin’s Farms recently donated several plants to assist the club this year, Steinen said. Despite recent difficulties, the club has made do with consistent members each year. Two of them, Shawn Slopes, 14, and Ryan Slopes, 12, are in their second year with the program.
“The program is great because we get to learn new things,” Shawn said. “It’s a great experience because so many kids don’t know what it’s like to grow something.”
The experience is partly why Shawn and Ryan’s father, Ron, decided to enroll the boys in the program. “The garden is a great for everyone from start to finish,” Ron said. “It teaches personal responsibility. Plus, it helps the community, and that’s something that will stick with them.
• WHAT: West Huron Youth Club Donation Garden
• WHERE: 3707 E. Perkins Ave.
• WHEN: Now through September
• MORE: To join, call club president Gil Steinen at 419-626-5146.