Jai Abbott left and Seth Beard right plant vegetable starts in the new garden at the Red Barn Youth Center at the garden party on June 13. Photo by Karen Lovett, KP news

Enthusiastic students and a team of adult volunteers showed up on Saturday, June 13, before 8 a.m. ready for a busy days work.

The land out back of Key Center’s Red Barn had been cleared and leveled. The students picked up rocks and pulled weeds to prepare the site. They were given measurements: length and width of raised beds, with walkways in between. After measuring and marking the distances, the garden was mapped out.

Adults constructed the beds from 2 by 6 lumber then the kids put the beds in place and filled them with topsoil donated by Walrath Trucking.

Once the beds were ready it was time to get down to planting the vegetable starts. It was critical to get everything watered quickly on that hot day.

Jaitonn “Jai” Abbott has been coming to the Red Barn since the beginning of the school year. The ninth-grader has accrued over 200 hours since starting volunteer work in the eighth grade.

“Green thumbs help a lot,” Abbott said. “Ive been gardening since I can remember. My grandma taught me. We used Tonka trucks for digging. We will get the grass in and then well have a volleyball court by the woods.”

Kyle Hoskins volunteers from 2:30 to  6:30 p.m. almost every day. After finishing work on the garden, he was working on a trail so high school students can walk to the Red Barn from the library. “The best thing about the Red Barn is its a sanctuary with our friends,”Hoskins said.

“Its fun to volunteer here,” high school 10th-grader Seth Beard said.

“We are the three amigos,” Abbott said. “Its a good place to hang out and do homework and have mentors. Most of our food is donated, so the garden will help out. Extras will go to the food bank. The community helps us and we want to give back.”

Adult volunteer Chad Oliveira took a lunch break before getting back to work. In addition to volunteering on site a lot, he maintains the website for Red Barn as well as handling their social media.

Monica Rakowski of the Key Peninsula Garden Store was a garden sponsor and donated $500 for the garden. “Lots of people donated plants,” Rakowski said. “It was a total community effort.”

“The flood gates have been opened,” said Doug Paterson, Red Barn director. “When you say its for the kids, people have been wonderful. Lowe’s donated 20 boards for the project and Home Depot is donating a shed.”

“The best thing about this job is getting to come here every day,” Red Barn president Laura Condon said.

Susan Ricketts volunteers there almost every day. She comes in and feeds the kids and plays games with them.

“Ill probably be in charge of the garden,” Ricketts said. “Gardening and cooking are my passion. I hope to teach them organic gardening. Ive been an organic gardener for over 25 years. Ill teach them how to grow it from garden to table.”

According to organizers, the positive influence and guidance the kids receive at Red Barn and the relationships they build are making a real difference in their lives. They are gaining experience and developing a sense of responsibility they hope will enrich and help them later in life.

The Red Barn offers free services and operates on grants and donations from the local community. Teens are provided snacks and drinks on a daily basis.

School-year hours: Monday through Friday 2:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m.
Summer hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m.
Location: 15921 84th St. KPN, Lakebay
Website: redbarnkp.org
Phone: (253) 884-1594

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