Imagine a garden where seeds of hope grow, transforming lives.  Imagine a place where community leaders, homeless individuals, UNC students, low-income individuals, high school students, and the broader community all come together to work in a garden . . . and to give a fresh start to those people most in need of hope for a better future.

The place is HOPE Gardens, right here in Chapel Hill on Homestead Road.  

HOPE Gardens is a student-run project developed by UNC’s Campus Y in 2009.  HOPE stands for “Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication.”

It is best to understand the program through HOPE Gardens’ own words:

“[HOPE Gardens is] a transitional employment program for homeless individuals and an inclusive community garden, each meant to facilitate relationships and dialogue among the student, homeless, low-income, and broader Chapel Hill communities in a ‘side by side’ work environment…

Structured as an all-inclusive program to employ the homeless in a community garden, HOPE Gardens is designed to help people experiencing homelessness overcome many obstacles to finding employment. People living on the streets and in the shelters apply to the program; after being accepted, they plant, cultivate, and harvest their crop. Produce as well as value-added products are sold on the UNC campus and in local farmers’ markets.  As a part of the program, participants will be connected with various social services and guided in methods of effective money management and saving programs.”

Many, many members of the Chapel Hill Community have volunteered for HOPE Gardens, including Chapel Hill High School junior Fan Huang, who has volunteered more than 2,000 hours.  You can learn more about Fan in the Chapelboro’s “Kids Shine” column this week.  

Community members are invited each month to a free potluck lunch at HOPE Gardens.  The next potluck is Saturday, March 25th.  If you are interested in helping turn some spring soil and plant some seeds, then head to the gardens at 10:00am on the 25th and join other volunteers for a rewarding morning.  If you don’t have time that morning or are interested in learning more about HOPE first, then join them for the potluck at noon.  To learn more, visit HOPE Gardens’ website at: