PACIFICA (KPIX 5) — It is one thing to start a vegetable garden because you love to grow fresh, healthy food. But it is another thing to take all that food you have grown and give it away to those most in need, which is exactly what Chris Vance has done.
Vance, who works as a library assistant at Pacifica’s Sanchez Library, wasn’t really a gardener until about 15 years ago. A deep desire to change his lifestyle habits drove Vance to start exercising and eating better, including growing his own vegetables – first in his home garden.
But it was a patch of weeds next to the library that gave Vance the idea to take his new hobby to work.
“Every now and then the city would come in and mow it and then that would be it,” explained Vance. “I knew exactly what to do with the space.”
Vance started with one raised garden bed, then built another. It has been a bountiful harvest ever since, with a recent year yielding over 800 pounds of vegetables. As his plants grew, Vance began to wonder what he was going to do with all that kale, carrots and cauliflower, not to mention his favorite fava beans. His supervisor at the library asked Vance the same question. That is when Vance said he was hit with this idea: donate all the vegetables, every single one, to the Pacifica Resource Center.
“It just popped in my head. I had heard about the resource center,” said Vance. ” I had been over there, I had brought some stuff and I said it’s all going to go to the resource center.”
So began Vance’s weekly trips to the center, dropping off every vegetable from the garden. Executive Director Anita Rees says his donations have been a godsend for the 40-year-old center, which serves one in 10 Pacifica families by providing help with food, rent and mortgage assistance, free tax preparation, computer classes, even free showers for Pacifica’ homeless.
But it’s the food pantry that gets the most use, and Vance’s hometown, home-grown vegetables are front and center here.
“He took it upon himself to do something that he loves,” said Rees. “And to turn around and help all of our families.”
Annual donations of about $400 help keep the garden going. Vance also credits his army of garden volunteers who show up to do everything from weeding to watering to composting.
Over the years the garden has also become a sort of de-facto community meeting center, hosting everyone from home school classes to master gardeners wishing to improve their skills.
Vance is modest about his participation, often contributing his own funds. He is also somewhat of an admitted gardening purist, growing every plant from seed. Vance will be retiring soon but plans on coming back as a garden volunteer, to be in the dirt with the plants he loves.
“It just makes my heart sing,” explained Vance with a smile.