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Roy gleaning effort draws volunteers from Seattle

Post by News Tribune Staff on Oct. 11, 2008 at 2:43 pm with No Comments »
October 11, 2008 2:43 pm

The orchard is just past the Roy, up a hill, past a graveyard and behind a group of five new homes sitting on a cul-de-sac.

For 10 young professionals from Seattle, it was the perfect place to spend a Saturday.

"The weather is great, I’m with friends and, most of all, we’re helping people," said Thomas Buford, a 29-year-old attorney for the Department of Justice.

The group spent much of the day among the 3-year-old apple and prune trees. They donned canvas bibs with giant pockets, filled them with dozens of apples and transported them to cardboard boxes. The fruit is destined for the Emergency Food Network, which will distribute them this week to area charities.

"I want to make a positive impact. That’s why I’m here," said 28-year-old Greg Chiarella, part of the group from a nonprofit called Seattle Works that helps link men and women in their 20s and 30s with various charity efforts. The group meets one Saturday each month for a different task; previous assignments include sorting donations at Goodwill and cleaning a homeless shelter.

The volunteers split into groups of two or three. The effort kept a laid-back feel; they joked or chatted about college football while gently twisting each piece of fruit off the branches.

"I love being involved with the community," said 26-year-old Lorraine Goldberg, a recent graduate from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. "It allows you to see a part of the area you normally wouldn’t see, and you can meet people you normally wouldn’t."

The orchard was once a low-level Superfund site; the property’s former owner stored oil drums and other junk on it, and soon others turned it into a dumping ground. About seven years ago, the state took over the property, and the county helped clean it up.

The area became a joint federal-county project to provide low-income housing, said David Ottey, executive director of the Emergency Food Network. The Korean Women’s Association now runs the site, and the first trees were planted in the orchard five years ago. Of the 400 that were originally planted, 308 still stand.

Saturday’s gleaning was the first major picking at the orchard. And, for the volunteers, a welcome reason to spend a sunny day outside helping others.

"It’s good therapy for everybody," psychologist Andrea Neal said.

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