The holiday season is often referred to as the season of giving, as many people share gifts with family and friends. Our University of Illinois Extension program is blessed with volunteers who have their own season of giving. For Master Gardener volunteers their season of giving is spread out over three seasons, Spring, Summer and Fall. During the growing season, they grow vegetables at the “Plant a Row” garden on the grounds of Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital and then give them to the food pantries in Charleston and Mattoon.

In 2017, these dedicated volunteers grew and donated a little over 3,000 pounds of vegetables. I am personally and professionally proud of their work, considering it was accomplished despite challenging weather conditions throughout the growing season. Additionally, they raised these vegetables using their own gardening tools and equipment.

Yes, these Master Gardener volunteers not only donated their time, but also donated the use of their own equipment. Hauling garden tiller, hand tools, and even a mower and weed trimmer in their own vehicles, driving to the garden site at Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital, unloading, working and then loading it back in their vehicle to haul home until another day.

While I have not heard any of them complain about using their own equipment, I know that it adds wear and tear to their gardening equipment, vehicle and to themselves. Therefore, I am asking for your help. If you have gardening tools that you no longer use, and you would be willing to donate them to this project, please give me a call.

What kind of garden tools do our volunteers need? It would be helpful to have useable hand tools such as trowels, cultivating hoes, garden rakes, garden forks and a couple shovels. On the power equipment list, it would be extremely helpful to have a rear-tined garden tiller, gas powered weed eater and a mower. This equipment doesn’t have to be new, but it does need to be in operating condition because in about four months it will be put to use planting the 2018 crop of vegetables for the community food pantries.

If you would like to discuss an equipment donation or offer financial support of this project, call Dave Shiley at 217-543-3755. As always, feel free to contact any of our University of Illinois Extension offices for assistance in finding research-based answers to your questions.

As a reminder, the deadline to apply to join our Master Gardener volunteer group and attend the 2018 winter training is the end of this week, Dec. 15. I hope you have a great holiday season.

For more information on University of Illinois Extension programming in Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie and Shelby counties, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at 217-345-7034.

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