Harvesting Hope in Visalia
What started as a student project in one of Michaelpaul Mendoza’s classes has evolved into a community service that is benefiting foodbanks and families throughout Tulare County, and garnering recognition from state legislators. Mendoza, who earned his teacher credential at Brandman’s Visalia campus, is currently a graduate student and a teacher at Mission Oak High School in Tulare. For more information find Harvesting Hope on Facebook.
On this Saturday morning, we’re here in Visalia for a special community service project called Harvesting Hope, which is organized by Brandman University alumni.
Michaelpaul Mendoza: I’m a 14-year teacher, and I got my teaching credential at Brandman University and I’ve returned since within the last year to obtain a master’s degree in educational leadership.
Harvesting Hope started as a class project by students in Mr. Mendoza’s class at Mission Oak High School. Today there are more than 150 volunteers from eight different schools participating. Harvest Hope mobilizes volunteers who are mostly middle and high school students to pick fresh produce on private property, which is then donated to area food banks, and distributed to families in need throughout the county. Today, Harvesting Hope is clearing a private acerage in Visalia with some 80 orange trees owned by the Zeibol family.
Pat Zeibol: I am very excited today. We moved into this house about five years ago and we saw the oranges in the back and we thought they were awesome, but we did not realize there’s no way we could pick them. And so for the last several years they’ve been falling to the ground and been wasted. So, we’re very excited that these kids can come out and pick them and they can be donated to people who could use them.
Fellow Brandman alumni and educator Mark Thompson heard about Harvesting Hope through Brandman and decided to get his students involved.
Mark Thompson: So this is important just for obviously the need of poverty in our town and in our county but it’s really been an opportunity for our young people to give and to learn about that life is really more about others and not just about ourselves.
Student: I knew that it was an opportunity to give what other people don’t have so I wanted, I knew it would make me feel good about myself, to make other people smile.
Tell about why you came out today.
Student: Just to help the community, do good for myself and for others.
Why is that important?
Student: It really helps you inside to be a better person and help others even when you don’t need to.
Sonia Mendoza: The students who are involved in this cause, the young students from middle school to high school to college to graduate coursework really are looking to make a difference in the lives of the people who harvest the food for a living but can’t afford to buy fresh fruit for their own families
Harvesting Hope has also caught the attention of elected officials. Assemblyman Devon Matthews is here today with his family and plans to special recognition from the California State Legislature.
Devon Mathis: In Tulare County, we’re number one in ag and we’re number one in heart. Everybody’s out here today, doing just that, they want to make sure that nobody is hungry and that’s very important and it shows the character of our youth. I’m writing a resolution to let the state and the world know what these people are doing.You guys are an inspiration, you show what community truly is.
Michaelpaul Mendoza: As an educator, you know, for years trying to get students to connect with how important their education is and I’ve realized that there’s only so many important things that they can learn inside the classroom. These students that I have started this movement, have volunteered every, nearly every weekend for the past year. And as a result, they have helped raise about 60,000 pounds of fresh fruit for the local food bank, which is the most the food bank has received in its history.
Gina Saez: A great tremendous thank you and gratitude always for these kids. There have been times that we’ve gone out to harvest where it has just been a few of us and since the kids have joined in, it has been amazing. It literally cannot be done without the volunteers and the kids.
Today the group harvested over 6,000 pounds of oranges. That’s more than 3 tons of fresh fruit. If you would like to join in Harvesting Hope as a volunteer or if you have property that can be harvested for produce to donate, connect with Harvesting Hope on Facebook or call Mr. Mendoza at 559-972-9148.
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