Pay It Forward – Arrowhead Ranch ‘Master Gardeners’

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Arrowhead Ranch is a residential facility for at risk teens in Coal Valley.  The Ranch relies heavily on help from volunteers and this week the Pay It Forward money is being given to a group of gardeners that have shown tremendous dedication to helping the teens grow.

“We enjoy working with the plants and sharing that knowledge with the kids,” volunteer Kent Ackerman says as he rearranges bags of soil.

They are called the ‘master gardeners’;  men from the University of Illinois Extension that 3 days a week volunteer at Arrowhead Ranch.  Rain or shine.

The master gardeners share their time and expertise while helping maintain the greenhouse and orchard on campus.  They say it’s a project the students take a lot of pride in.

“The kids grow their own, they give the flowers to their mom, their dad or their cousin or significant other,” Ackerman says.  “That really excites them on those days that they get visits from friends

But the group of volunteers is passing on way more than just a few gardening tips Arrowhead Ranch CEO Angela Moody says.

“They are teaching our children another skill and in my opinion another coping mechanism.”

For a group of troubled teens who have experienced a lot of inconsistency in their lives, the relentless dedication of these volunteers is invaluable.  But the staff at Arrowhead Ranch wanted to try to pay them back.  They nominated the volunteers for the Pay It Forward program and were awarded $300 to give the volunteers.  And with no hesitation, the ‘master gardeners’ plan to pay it forward once again.

“Actually you can call it seed money, no pun intended!  Ackerman says, “We will get fertilizer, potting soil those sort of things and the kids really get a charge out of it.”

The staff at Arrowhead says the volunteer’s constant giving spirit is wearing off on the kids.

“That teaches our kids a valuable experience,” Moody says.  “How giving too each other and giving back is such a healthy way of looking at life.

Blooming more than plants but growing our future as well.

Also every year, Arrowhead Ranch has a Round-up Auction to raise funds. People donate cars, trucks and other vehicles, the students fix them up and they auction them off.  The Round-up will be Sunday, Sept. 16th.