As a resident of Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Kimberly Gelardi drove past a farm every day on her way to work and always wondered why there was no roadside produce stand selling fresh food outside. A year later, her friend mentioned volunteering at America’s Grow-A-Row, a nonprofit organization dedicated to donating fresh produce to food banks and hunger relief agencies across the mid-Atlantic region. It turns out, her daily drive took her past this nonprofit, and soon she decided to get involved.
“Volunteering with Grow-A-Row is all about coming together,” said Kimberly, operational support manager in PSE&G’s Renewables & Energy Solutions team. “It’s not just for our own team development – we volunteer because, at the end of the day, we see the impact that many hands working together has, and we’re helping others in a positive way.”
Originally started by members of the BALANCE Employee Business Resource Group, each event steadily drew more employees. The first time Kimberly organized a volunteer day at America’s Grow-A-Row, 24 PSEG employees attended. She helped coordinate an event where an upwards of 126 employees volunteered side-by-side on the farm. In fact, some employees drive hours to participate – from Long Island to Salem County.
In June 2019, 90 PSEG employees spent a full day at Grow-A-Row’s Pittstown farm. In one day, they planted about 12,000 sweet potato vines. These efforts were estimated to yield 35,000 pounds or 140,000 servings of fresh healthy produce that would later be delivered to food desert areas (areas where people lack access to healthy, fresh, affordable produce) in Newark, Jersey City, East Orange, Camden and Morristown.
Kimberly has been around gardens and farms her whole life. Growing up, she gardened with her family and worked at a garden center during high school and college. That’s why Grow-A-Row’s mission to positively impact as many lives as possible through planting, picking, rescuing and delivering free, fresh produce resonates with Kimberly.
“PSEG has a culture of continuous improvement and Grow-A-Row really embodies that – they never stop and keep reinventing themselves, finding additional ways to positively impact underserved communities,” she said.
If you would like more on Grow-A-Row, you can also sign up for the organization’s newsletter here.