Geneseo’s “master gardener” grows vegetables and generosity

GENESEO, Illinois-- Farmers have worked for months to get to this point, the time to pick their crops for profit. But Dick Mattan grows a lot more than vegetables, he's growing generosity.

It's always a good morning when you can count on a ride from Dick Mattan even when your final destination is Hammond Henry Hospital.

Accumulating over 2,600 hours of service, Mattan's been volunteering here for 17 years shuttling people back and forth from their cars to the front door.

For Dick, it's helping others that counts.

"I love the job. I love people!" says Mattan.

When he's not volunteering, he spends his free time with a different set of wheels, his wheelbarrow.

"It's a chore picking them, but it's a lot of fun," says Mattan.

He has three separate gardens on his three and a half acre plot. At 79-years-old, planting and harvesting is no easy task.

He keeps track of everything in it and everything he gets out of it, counting every single vegetable, that is, except the beans. There are just too many of those.

He takes a bite of bean here, and a cherry tomato there, but everything else, this giver gifts away. He gives thousands of pounds of fresh veggies to people at his church to people working at the local McDonald's. But one place he always gives is Hillcrest Nursing Home.

"We slice them, and then we make a cucumber salad the residents just rave for," says worker Jessica Felt.

He has a reputation around these parts. Residents know him as the 'master gardener.'

It's unclear how long the master gardener can keep giving.

"He says he likes to count his vegetables, but I think he counts them to distract himself from the hot weather and bugs that get in his eyes nose and mouth," says his wife Joyce.

But if Dick has anything to say about it, his lesson will keep growing.

"If he can just get through to one person and say hey, you can be almost 80 and still do a lot of good in the world, it would be a nicer world if everyone can do that too, "says Joyce.

And that's all that really counts.

"I'm not going to quit," says Mattan.

Dick doesn't only visit Hillcrest to drop off produce, he and his wife Joyce also started a garden there in the courtyard for the residents to enjoy.

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