November 7, 2023
Giving back together builds strong friendship for garden volunteers
For Stephanie Lemancik and Rebecca Johnson, volunteering in WayForward’s garden was the seed for a strong, intergenerational friendship.
The two scientists first got to know each other as members of a “Green Committee” at their company, Thermo Fisher Scientific, which has been a longtime supporter of WayForward through food drives. They started volunteering for WayForward’s garden five years ago as part of the group, sparked by Johnson’s idea to garden to help others.
Over time, the group got smaller and just the two of them remained. Lemancik and Johnson have volunteered every week of gardening season since they began in 2018, except for days when the weather is too hot or severe to safely get out there. Both say they bonded over their love of volunteering and enjoyment of learning more about gardening along the way.
“I never considered myself to be a green thumb,” says Lemancik (at left in photo), who credits Dan Johnson, WayForward’s lead garden volunteer, for his mentoring and coaching. “We meet at the garden and he gives us our marching orders.”
The work is still challenging on some days, but both women say it’s worth it.
“I think back to when we’re focused on watering those little pepper plants back in July, and it’s like 90 degrees and we’re miserable,” Lemancik says. “And then we see these tiny plants growing up and producing so much food. When you look back over the course of the months and how much things have grown and changed, it’s such a beautiful journey.”
“It’s just such an important initiative to support the people in our community, even if we never meet them personally,” she says.
Johnson (at right in photo) says the beauty of WayForward’s garden – and what it produces to provide people in our community access to nutritious food – is part of what keeps her coming back season after season.
“I think it’s our duty in life to give to others and this is a perfect example of where our hard work actually can improve someone else’s health,” Johnson says. “That brings a huge amount of joy and happiness and satisfaction.”