Colbe Cortez, 12, of Benton, Ark., a seventh-grader at Bethel Middle School, used Christmas gift money to rent a plot in his church's community garden, and then grew vegetables that he sold to benefit a local shelter for working homeless families. After participating in a variety of volunteer projects with his family, church and school, Colbe decided he wanted to donate money he received at Christmas to a local charity. "In talking with my parents and a family friend about my decision, it was suggested that instead of just giving my Christmas money to a charity, I could invest that money and try to double my investment to help those in need," Colbe said. After considering the options, Colbe decided to plant a garden that could produce income for Our House Shelter, which provides housing and educational opportunities for families in need.
After renting a community garden plot, Colbe bought seeds, plants, and tools he had "no idea how to use." In the beginning, he had his doubts that he could coax food out of the ground. "All I saw was a bunch of brown dirt marked off by string and labeled with my name on it," said Colbe. But with the help of his family, he readied the soil and planted his vegetables. Several times a week Colbe watered, fertilized and pulled weeds. A few weeks later, he was ready to harvest his first crop. He then created a sign explaining his project, and each Sunday, sold vegetables at a church produce stand. By the end of the summer, he was able to present the director of the homeless shelter with $584.06 that he had collected from his vegetable sales. He plans to double the size of his garden next summer.