The Fruits of Our Labor

Back in March the Northern California chapter of EFA met and discussed volunteering; specifically, how does volunteering help your business or spark your creativity? Chapter member Lynn Eder showed off a book of community lore that she edited as part of a team from Friends of the McClatchy Library. (Read more about their journey here or listen to a segment about it on Capitol Public Radio.)

Memories of McClatchy Library

Cover by Nancy Gotthart

Cool, right?

Through EFA and other groups that collectively make up what I’m calling Sacramento’s literary salon, I’ve met writers and editors who volunteer for organizations promoting youth fitness and leadership, as well as empowerment through creative writing and publishing. Some of these folks are even performing in the nationwide Mother’s Day spoken-word shows, Listen to Your Mother, locally raising funds for 916 Ink.

The more I learn about Sacramento, the more connections I realize I’d like to make via volunteering. Just a few months ago, my husband and I took our daughter to a Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services food distribution site where we learned, among other things, of the need for adult education volunteers to teach literacy and other job skills. Awesome!…if only I could break out of the ‘burbs a few more nights a week to come do it.

Barely above a mumble, another mom at the EFA meeting listed several kid-related volunteer gigs she’d had at her son’s school. I’ve been sucked into those too one way or another–at church and with school, scouting, and sports. These are the gigs that we don’t necessarily connect with our professional lives and let’s face it, we’re sometimes volun-told to do, if we want our children to participate. We’re in a stage of life that not everyone in our literary salon can relate to, but there it is.

It’s taken me a while to get used to explaining the paradox that mommy-track professionalism can be. And it’s taken a while to fully claim the title of Professional Mom. That is, until this experience I had with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop last month:

Brownie Girl Scouts Sacramento

My daughter in red, and two of her Brownie friends, harvesting a backyard orange tree in Oak Park.

On April 6 my daughter’s Brownie troop met with an intergenerational team of 40+ volunteers from all over the area to execute a Harvest Sacramento-sponsored backyard orange harvest. Our group of 4 second graders and 3 moms was the only Girl Scout troop represented. Scuffing through the dewy grass of McClatchy Park we participated in ice-breakers to talk about our neighborhoods and our experience with local food from “edible Sacramento.”

Harvest Sacramento sign in front of fruit bins

Harvest Sacramento organizes volunteers to pick fruit from people’s backyard trees.

Then we divided up into teams and took ladders, picker baskets on long poles, buckets and boxes for collecting fruit and departed for our assigned backyards. We paired up with a team of social work students from Sac State, as well as a Harvest Sacramento leader who called ahead and confirmed the appointments. Our group visited three backyards in the Oak Park neighborhood, two near McClatchy Park and one off of Franklin Boulevard.

using a fruit picker basket on a pole.

Reaching for the high fruits with a picker.

Where adults had to get on ladders to reach the Valencia oranges, the girls carried 10-gallon buckets to collect the fruit from our picker poles. They sorted the intact fruit from the bad (and from the ones that had fallen on the grass, in the case of the yard with dogs). Though the day was cool our girls learned to appreciate rest periods as they got a feel for what a full-time picker’s life might be like. Dust falls in your eyes when the fruit shakes loose; your neck gets sore from looking up. Our girls hefted buckets and boxes around and generally made all the mamas proud, not to mention the rest of the team members.

Brownie Girl Scouts after harvesting oranges

Back at McClatchy Park after a long morning of picking oranges.

And that’s what this gig–in the bigger sense of the word, the gig of being a human, connected with your community–is all about, right?

fruit bin for Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services

The girls sorted the backyard fruit–all the good oranges went to Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.