By Shauna Gillespie of Sprouting Hope in Marion, VA

I became involved with Sprouting Hope through a program at Emory & Henry College called Community Engagement Fellows. The goal of the program is to provide students interested in the nonprofit field with some real hands-on experience while assisting organizations that do good work for the community. I had my pick of 26 different positions at nonprofits throughout the area. As soon as I read Sprouting Hope’s mission statement, I knew where I wanted to work.

My time at Sprouting Hope has been very beneficial in many different ways, especially gaining a variety of experience. I have had the chance to attend board meetings, assist with grant writing, work on volunteer programs, organize a fundraising event, work in the garden, and I was even able to attend the Grow Appalachia Conference. I have no doubt that all of these things will be very useful to me in the future regardless of where my career leads me.

There are many ways I could describe my experience: beneficial, productive, educational, fun, and interesting; however, the one word that I believe really sums it up is fulfilling. Through meeting and spending time with many of our garden participants and handing out produce at the food pantry, I gained a better understanding of the impact Sprouting Hope makes on so many people’s lives. Sprouting Hope is more than a place to grow and share healthy produce. It’s a place to grow meaningful relationships and share beautiful memories. When I tell people I want to work with nonprofits when I graduate, they automatically ask how much that pays, usually implying it’s not going to be a lot. For a while I didn’t really have a response to that. Since my experience with Sprouting Hope, my answer is always the same, “I don’t know how much money I’ll make, but it surely pays the soul!”