Each August for the past 6 years that I have lived in the Rogue Valley, my mind has turned to the pear harvest. What is pear harvest you may ask? It is one of the highlights of my year. An opportunity that I have to spend at least 12 hours helping people I will never meet.
In Medford, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints operates a pear farm. It is one of 56 production projects of the LDS Church Welfare System. Pears produced at the Medford Pear Orchard are processed and canned in church canneries and used throughout the world in humanitarian aid efforts.
The orchard operates almost entirely on volunteer labor. Recently (this past January), I was assigned to serve on the Pear Farm Committee. The committee meets once each month to coordinate volunteer efforts at the farm. During the month of August when the pears are harvested, all members of the LDS Church in the Rogue Valley 12 years old and older are asked to provide at least 12 hours of service at the pear farm. Volunteers pick, tag, and ship pears, coordinate parking, maintain machinery, track statistics, provide water and other support for those picking, etc. There is meaningful work for all ability levels.
I enjoy very much the time I spend picking. It is the good feeling we all get when we help others. I think of those who may be receiving the pears – will it be the result of a natural disaster like an earthquake, a hurricane, or a tsunami? Will it be a family that is experiencing difficult times and needs a helping hand? Whoever it is, odds are good that I will never meet them. I will only know that I have done something I could do to benefit their lives.
Something that I truly love about Ashland is the strong sense of community and the effort that is put into supporting and improving its citizens. From the Ashland Schools Foundation and Ashland Little League to the many grassroots efforts aimed at supporting those in need, Ashland knows how to volunteer.
The Monster Dash is a huge volunteer effort supporting education. And every year it has grown as more and more people get involved in the community. The Dash benefits are given to the Ashland Schools Foundation which was organized decades ago with the vision of promoting and supporting top notch educational resources for youth in the community.
The YMCA Healthy Kids day is another volunteer event to benefit children in the community. Many individuals work behind the scenes for months coordinating the event. And many in the community, when asked, volunteer their time and efforts to support the positive efforts of the organizers.
There are many other volunteer efforts going on in Ashland and the surrounding area. Think for a moment about what would happen if all volunteer efforts to benefit, beautify, and strengthen the community stopped. The work that many quietly do would suddenly become very visible as the work was left undone!
Some of us want to help in our communities but do not know how. If you like picking pears, you can check out the Pear Harvest at www.medfordpearorchard.org
For those who do not like pear picking, here are some other ways to get involved in the community:
Support worthy community activities that help the poor meet basic needs or learn skills.
Help new members of your community learn English (or the local language if outside the United States).
Assist with literacy programs.
Volunteer at a local homeless shelter, refugee organization, low-income health clinic, or school.
Support after-school activities for youth.
Support local food drives by donating to food banks and pantries.
Volunteer with a local community organization. Good organizations have the following characteristics:
Beneficiaries are allowed to solve their own problems through participation and work, promoting self-reliance.
Leadership in the organization is honest and competent.
However we give back, it is important that we do. Research has shown repeatedly that those who give (of their time, their talent, etc.) experience greater happiness and fulfillment in life and feel a greater sense of connection with the community around them. My invitation to each of us would be to find some way to give back to the community around us, or to humanity at large; to be the kind of person that is like the tide coming into a harbor, lifting everyone around us.