Self-isolation, quarantine, shelter-in-place, social distancing …all different versions of measures that people all over the world are experiencing. Many people around the world are finding creative and enthusiastic ways to deal with the “new normal”: working from home, spending time with their family and even upping their gardening-game. However, we cannot forget the population of people who are isolated and alone during this unfamiliar time and feeling more and more disconnected from community. What about the members of society who’s normal this has always been this isolated lifestyle? There are large numbers of people living in the Central Okanagan that, for a variety of socio-economic or health reasons, face mobility challenges and spend most, if not all, of their time indoors, away from public spaces, community gatherings and other social settings. These are the clients of Hands in Service.
Hands in Service is a non-profit whose mission is “to provide free, compassionate and relational, non-medical home care, referral services and food security assistance through individuals, groups, businesses, and churches to vulnerable clients struggling with disability, financial and social limitations.” Since 2005, Hands in Service has been filling the gap of care and community, and in 2012 they launched their Living Salads program. Gardening and plants aide in our well-being—both physically and mentally—and considering the fact that many individuals don’t have the capacity to garden (be it space or finances) at home or the mobility to take part in a community garden, Living Salads was born. Every May, volunteers pot up planters full of tomatoes, herbs, marigolds and leafy greens to deliver to those who are mobility-challenged and/or food insecure. The planters are small enough to fit near most people’s doorsteps, patios, decks and even in some sunny windows, yet big enough to create a yield. In recent years, through partnerships with local high schools, many of the planters have gone to families as well as individuals, who are deemed as experiencing food insecurity, also benefitting from the mindful practice, nutritious components and sense of accomplishment that accompanies tending these planters. The pots, soil and plants are 100% donated by generous sponsors*, but due to the massive demand at garden retails stores during pandemic times, securing the plants and soil has been more difficult than past years. Yet, in the face of all obstacles, on May 6th Hands in Service planted 325 planters with 235 of those going to families to provide food and education. One client receiving a planter this year gushed that “this is such a gift…everyone from the drivers to the gardeners…truly, I’m so excited to get my planter”. Another client mentioned how it is his birthday this month and he was so excited to receive his planter because he doesn’t believe he’ll be getting any other gifts. Upon hearing this, Hal Puder from the Tickle Trunk arranged for balloons and a cake to accompany the delivery of this man’s Living Salad.
During the 2020 viral pandemic, Hands in Service has had to step back from many of its in home non-medical support services, their food hamper delivery and Living Salads program have become more important in supporting vulnerable and forgotten members of our community. As many of us have felt the effects of this pandemic and chosen to sink our hands in soil, reconnecting with our food and the natural world, Hands in Service digs in deeper to the Living Salad project so that everyone can find their green thumb.
Author: Amanda Watland
* Art Knapp’s, Kel-Lake Greenhouses, The Greenery, Paynter’s Fruit Market, Sunshine Farm, RONA, and Walter’s Baskets