two men working in community garden

Many years ago, my aunts belonged to “Friends of the Library” in our Queens neighborhood of Woodhaven. They helped out with book sales and fund-raising events because the library was so important to our community.

It was vital not only for the books that we borrowed to read at home; we also used it to research our school reports and projects. The Friends of the Library is still a vital institution, serving as our community center where people gather for recreation or to attend classes on various topics that are offered for all ages.

These days, I work with the Friends of the Library — but for a different reason than my aunts did. I volunteer in our community garden. The mission of the community library is tied to local food security these days, as well as being a lifeline for the mind.

We start in late May to weed and prepare the ground for planting the small plants that they started indoors from seeds. This year, we planted corn, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. We even have poles that we made into a tepee for the squash runners to climb. Now, those squash plants already have their first blossoms!

We also have a compost tumbler in Woodhaven and participants are invited to bring food scraps to compost. The other library garden that I work in, Richmond Hill, doesn’t have a compost pile. But that doesn’t stop me from bringing all of my coffee grounds and eggshells there to spread on the soil to add nutrients.

Besides producing fresh produce and fragrant herbs, working with others in the garden creates a sense of fellowship and community.

A day spent volunteering at the community garden (or cleaning up a park or beach) is never a bad day. You can meet interesting people and you are doing your part to help the planet from your little corner of the Earth.

So, investigate! There might be a wonderful opportunity right near you where you can work with the soil and grow amazing produce — or clean up a natural area so we all can enjoy it. Take your children and they’ll learn valuable lessons about where food comes from, and maybe gain a sense of stewardship for our planet and the value of community.

Imagine if everyone did “just a little.”

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.