The words “a better community” are not often the first things that come to mind when people hear the words fruit picking. But that is exactly what one Summerland group is hoping to achieve with their fruit picking efforts this summer.
The Summerland Fruit Tree Project is a program put together by the Summerland Asset Development Initiative, or SADI. The project entails a number of volunteers travelling to various homes and orchards throughout the Summerland area and picking fruit, which is then given to organizations like local schools and assisted living facilities.
Since its inception in 2004, the project has yielded roughly 20,000 pounds of fruit, said Laceydawn Loeppky, program director with SADI.
In 2010 alone, the program had 33 tree picks and 2,400 pounds of fruit harvested — fruit that went to community organizations in need.
The Summerland Seniors Village is one such organization being provided with the fresh fruit, and the project has made quite the impression on residents, said Sharon Lusch, marketing co-ordinator with the village.
“They’re so grateful, it’s the talk around the whole village, the Summerland Seniors Village, about the exciting fruit and the things they bring in,” she said.
“I think it’s an excellent program, and they look forward to it each summer,” she added, pointing out that the residents of the village place importance on having local fruits and vegetables.
While providing these organizations with the fruit is an obvious benefit, Loeppky said there are other intangible benefits the program brings to Summerland.
“For the community members, volunteering helps them interact with multi-generations, which is important as far as asset building goes,” she said. “There’s students, seniors, middle-aged people wo come to these picks, and that’s a really positive thing for the people themselves and also our community, because it bridges that gap between generations, specifically between teenagers and the older generations.”
SADI adheres to the belief of asset development — that by developing 40 key assets, youth can avoid high-risk behaviour and become community leaders. Loeppky said that the fruit-picks allow the youth to gain confidence and feel they’re making a positive difference in their community.
Valerie Wright, a longtime volunteer with the project, said seeing the youth volunteer is also working to give them a good impression within the community.
“I think its a great opportunity for them to see that there are youth out there that are helping the community,” she said. “They talk, they chat, they get to know one another, there’s that interchange, that asset building I would call it. It’s absolutely wonderful.”
The project usually has 15 volunteers every summer. However, so far this summer, there are only five. Loeppky said with more volunteers signing up for the program, the more fruit will be given back to the community.
To volunteer, donate a fruit tree for harvest or for more information, call 250-494-9722 or visit www.sadi.ca.