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Monday, October 3, 2022
JUNCTION CITY – Volunteers with Eugene Area Gleaners recently visited Oregon State Hospital’s Junction City campus to harvest apples from the trees planted along the hospital’s entrance known as Recovery Way.
“We were excited to hear about the opportunity for late apples. It’s been a weird year because of the temperature changes and timing of pollinators,” said volunteer, Catherine Wilkins. “My sons love to do cider pressings and we’ll make sauce with these.”
Simmons was joined by fellow volunteer Toni Simmons. The two met for the first time picking OSH’s apples – which is another perk of the Eugene Gleaners.
“Everybody works together and we split the harvest,” said Simmons, who arrived at the hospital after picking strawberries on a Pleasant Hill farm earlier that morning. “Half of what we picked, we gave to the farmer. He told us if we hadn’t come, he likely would have had to let the berries turn to mush because he didn’t have the help with the late harvest.”
In this case, the volunteers agreed to donate half of their harvest to Food for Lane County (FFLC), which organized the funding for the dwarf Liberty apple trees that were planted on the campus in 2015. The first harvest was in 2018 and celebrated as a gathering of OSH staff, patients and community volunteers with the apples donated to FFLC’s community food boxes.
“We’re grateful that volunteers continue to step up to ensure the fruit isn’t wasted and continues to be a benefit to the community,” said Tom Anhalt, administrator of OSH-Junction City.
The donated fruit will be used again this year to fill food boxes for community members, said Sally Dougherty, FFLC development director.
“It is a longstanding partnership that truly makes a positive impact on the lives of our fellow community members. It couldn’t be done without the collaboration of the hospital, Gleaners, and FFLC,” Dougherty said. The Eugene Area Gleaners is a volunteer organization that works with farmers and other food source providers to ensure food isn’t wasted. Whether it’s a farm or someone’s backyard, the group’s goal is to connect others with food resources. The volunteer work has other benefits, too, said Wilkins.
“It’s therapeutic to be outside and way from the daily grind,” she said. “You’re also meeting new people who are like-minded and it provides a sense of accomplishment – both individually and as a group. Recently, I helped pick over 200 pounds of pears that otherwise would have gone to waste. People don’t understand that there’s food right now waiting to be harvested.”
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