Valued, and Valuable

Good evening, everyone, and thank you so much for being here in support of the Homeless Garden Project holiday store. All of us on the Homeless Garden Project crew that have been working diligently over the past several months to create these exciting gifts are very proud of what we have to offer in our store. We hope you enjoy having or gifting the items as much as we enjoyed making them.

My name is Karen Chappell, and I started working for the Homeless Garden Project in July of 2018. I can’t even begin to tell you what a magical and inspirational place the farm has been to me, so I’ll attempt to tell you about some of the wonderful staff and crew there.

The Homeless Garden Staff is a tribute to Darrie’s natural ability to find the right person

Celosia in our drying shed

Celosia in our drying shed for the right position. Ansley Roberts, the crew supervisor, put me to work in a “Value Added” position, harvesting beautiful flowers every day and creating lovely bouquets each Tuesday and Friday for our CSA members. It was wonderful!

It led up to more strenuous work, of course, as two months later I was moved to the field crew post and was tasked with preparing beds, planting seedlings, weeding, harvesting mature vegetables and strawberries for our CSA clients every Tuesday and Friday, and basically doing any hard manual labor that was required under the supervision of Anthony Reyes the Farm Manager, and Mike Erickson, the lead Farmer.

Karen speaking at our First Friday Gala Holiday Store Celebration, December 7, 2018

Karen speaking at our First Friday Gala Holiday Store Celebration, December 7, 2018

Justin Wright, the volunteer coordinator and former crew member, helped organize the workflow between volunteers and crew so that all tasks got completed on time. All four of these individuals are knowledgeable about organic farming and so willing to share their knowledge with others that I was completely dialed in in no time.

The biggest lesson for me, however, was that I was valued, and valuable as a human being. I had somehow lost that understanding in my journey through homelessness. It had been so long since I had felt connected with the community that I was overwhelmed with relief and gratitude. I still have moments during the day where I stop and give thanks for my good fortune.

I’d like to move away from the label of homeless, for a moment, because it can paint a

Wreathmaking–made using flowers grown on the farm, and sold in our store

Wreathmaking–made using flowers grown on the farm, and sold in our store predetermined picture in your mind. The people that I work with are so wonderful and diverse, I’d like to give them their own titles which are just as real. On our very creative and artistic crew at the Homeless Garden Project we currently have teachers, artists, aspiring organic farmers, sales professionals, a cook, a hairstylist, a home health aide, a mechanic, a dancer, a restaurateur and customer service professionals. Oh and a former horse trainer, me! I am so proud and happy to be associated with these individuals and now consider them family.

I feel so much stronger now than I have before, and have future plans for myself that I know I can make happen now that I have such a strong support system. I have obtained a second job already and am working sometimes 14 hour days a few days a week, but I am determined to be indoors as soon as humanly possible.

Karen receives a standing ovation

I plan to continue working with the Homeless Garden Project as an alumni volunteer, to support anyone that needs help getting back on their feet. I also hope to meet someone special in the upcoming future to share my life with, as I’ve been a single mom for too many years now and my beautiful daughter Katie is fully grown. I see a bright future ahead of me, with lots of family and friends in it, especially my family from the Homeless Garden Project. Thank you for your time and attention, and I hope you enjoy your evening!

HGP Executive Director introduced Karen at the Gala: Karen Chappell is a trainee who’s been with us almost 6 months in our one-year training and transitional employment program. Karen always has something inspiring and wise to say at our weekly circle meeting, so I asked her to speak tonight about her time in our program.  Before she lost her housing in 2012, Karen had a full life with a career and family.  When Karen experienced mental health and substance abuse challenges, she lost a lot. Karen’s strength, determination and presence inspires me, and I am sure these qualities will bring her much success.