Ellie Reed began working with The Open Door through the AmeriCorps program in September 2020 after graduating from Whitman College in the midst of the pandemic with a degree in Environmental Studies and Sociology. She began working as an AmeriCorps service member at the Eagan Pantry, and finished her nine-month service period at the end of May. However, Ellie’s work with The Open Door did not end with her AmeriCorps assignment.
“They couldn’t keep me away, so The Open Door hired me on as a Temporary Operations Assistant. I’m a full-fledged staff member at this point,” Ellie said.
Ellie was drawn to The Open Door last year because she thought it was different from any food pantry she had ever seen before. Once she began working at the pantry, she discovered the organization’s mobile programs that bring food directly to people wherever they are, so she decided to get more involved in other aspects of The Open Door.
“I was so impressed that there was a Garden to Table program. Being from California where we are all about gardening, I knew I had to check out that program,” Ellie said.
One of Ellie’s projects this summer has been leading Garden Camp for kids ages 7 to 12 Monday through Thursday once each month this summer. The program aims to teach kids about taking care of a garden by planting, weeding, and harvesting. Ellie also teaches campers about pollinators and food preservation. After a successful week in both June and July, Ellie is looking forward to the final week of camp from August 9 through August 12.
“I’ve learned a lot from the kids about gardening because some of them have learned some things in school or from their parents or grandparents. I love seeing how interested they are in gardening and how they show up to learn each day,” Ellie said.
Each day is a different learning opportunity, and Ellie makes sure to emphasize a new topic every day from soil to weeds and pests. Ellie said themes have made planning each day more manageable because she tries to make sure every activity they do that day lines up with her learning objectives.
“On ‘Soil Day,’ we did different science experiments testing the soil to see its makeup and demonstrating how soil filters out ‘pollutants’ using Kool Aid to represent polluted water,” Ellie said.
In August, Ellie is looking forward to harvesting some of the radishes and carrots she helped campers plant earlier in the summer. She is also excited to start implementing some more creative activities for the final week of camp.
Ellie’s enthusiasm about teaching kids something she herself is passionate about has made Garden Camp successful this summer. While the first ever week of Garden Camp took place in 2019, Ellie has made it possible for the camp to run three times this summer and has instilled a passion for gardening and an appreciation for the environment in several kids in just a few short weeks.
When Ellie is not at The Open Door, she is probably out on the water somewhere kayaking, water skiing, or relaxing on the lake. Thank you for everything you have done this year, Ellie