The Power of Volunteers: Property Turned Community Garden For Families in Need

A group of volunteers at The Salvation Army's  garden in Tampa, a key element of the Sustainable Living Project.

A group of volunteers at The Salvation Army’s garden in Tampa, a key element of the Sustainable Living Project.

By Jillian Penhale, Director of Missions, The Salvation Army Florida Division 

The Sustainable Living Project (SLP) is a partnership garden between The Salvation Army and organization called Tampa Bay Harvest (TBH), a nonprofit agency that works to end hunger in Tampa Bay Area.

As TBH continued in their efforts to feed the hungry, one of the major things they noticed was the lack of fresh, healthy food donated to soup kitchens and food banks for the people who need it most. Executive Director, Will Carey, started dreaming about creating a garden that could help solve this injustice.

At the same time, there was a group of young adults from The Salvation Army in Tampa who also had a vision to turn an unused piece of property at the back of the church into a garden that would feed the neighborhood. God has an amazing way of making all things come together, and through a few connections, the two organizations were able to partner and that garden that now exists, with the help of grant money from JP Morgan Chase.

All volunteers at the SLP work to provide food to those who need it most in the community. Currently, 99% of the harvest supports the feeding program run by The Salvation Army in Tampa, or goes directly to families in the community who need fresh produce. The other 1% goes to volunteers who work in the garden and want to take a few vegetables home with them. The garden truly exists to be a way of giving back to the community, and so far has produced about 1,000 pounds of vegetables from 14 beds! We recently added a bee hive, a seedling table and funding for six more beds to be built in the garden.

The garden is open to the community and provides volunteer opportunities, educational classes, and the chance to sponsor a garden bed. The SLP provides a unique opportunity for the community at large to learn more about how they can affect change by recycling, becoming more sustainable everyday life, and inspire youth through experimental learning.

To learn more about The Salvation Army’s hunger relief services, visit



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