Sweat drips steadily down the backs of those shoveling mulch in ninety-degree heat under a blazing sun, but for people like Joseph, this is exactly the work they’re looking for.
Watching how the garden grows and being able to harvest the tangible benefits of their labors is what HOPE for Suffolk is all about. It is an initiative of Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church that connects people to the dignity of work.
The administration at the church used to receive dozens of calls a week from people looking for help. These were people from all different backgrounds, struggling to make ends meet.
“They didn’t want just a handout, they wanted to work,” says Hayden Blythe, the director for HOPE for Suffolk.
The program is all about preparing people for permanent job placement. By working in the garden, they earn wages and are able to cite it as previous work experience when applying for a new job. HOPE for Suffolk additionally offers classes aiding members in creating résumés and applying for other jobs.
When Joseph was working in the garden, he had been the only male there.
“So if mulch needed to be shoveled, it was me that did it.”
At 25 years old, working in this garden was Joseph’s first job. He says that even though the work could be backbreaking, he enjoyed it. His experience here not only taught him patience and hard work, it also helped him get his current job as a cook at a local restaurant.
Hayden confessed they would love to be able to do more by hiring additional workers, but the funding is limited, since the church pays for everything.
The program has grown since its inception. Just last year, they were able to get enough money to pay a part-time head gardener, Meredith Alphin.
Meredith has a passion for plants as well as a heart for people. She works along side of the others and takes the time to explain each step to them.
"I feel really honored to be a part of a community and an organization that wants to care for the earth...as well as helping people."
To learn more about HOPE for Suffolk, visit their Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2bdgVK7