March 13, 2012

Seeds for Seniors

Photo courtesy Seeds for Seniors

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Seeds for Seniors maintains a large garden, where fresh produce is grown for senior citizens.

A beneficial program is making life a bit easier for seniors in eastern Iowa’s Linn County. The Seeds for Seniors program, established in 2010, has a simple but worthy mission: to meet the needs of area seniors by providing them with free food and medical supplies.

For the past 19 months, the volunteers at Seeds for Seniors have worked tirelessly to achieve their ambitious goals. To date, the Seeds for Seniors food pantry has donated more than 100,000 pounds of food — valued at more than $400,000 — and more than $200,000 worth of medical supplies to senior citizens in Linn County. “We are projecting that by mid-summer we will have given out over $1,000,000 in free food and medical supplies to the elderly and their families,” says Dr. Jim Coyle, founder of Seeds for Seniors.

The concept for such a program was originally conceived about six years ago, Dr. Coyle says. “The idea is to take a group of passionate people who see the vision of serving people and add a facility (inside and outside) to assist in the vision. The combination of volunteers and a facility … provide the groundwork for making a difference in people’s lives.” The vision of focusing on a specific need of a specific group of people — in this case, seniors in need of food and medical supplies — is a model that could be duplicated by anyone interested in establishing a similar organization in their own hometown.

Senior citizens can visit the Seeds for Seniors food pantry, located in Cedar Rapids, to select specific food items. Volunteers prepare food boxes that contain frozen meat, bread and other items for home delivery. “We try to make [these boxes] as nutritious as possible with the varied items we have,” says Dr. Coyle. The organization has home-delivered nearly 1,600 of these boxes since late 2010.

With nutrition in mind, Seeds for Seniors maintains a large garden where produce is grown for the seniors’ consumption. “[In 2011,] we started with 12 raised-garden beds and were able to harvest 1,097 bags of fresh produce,” Dr. Coyle says. “All the produce was then added to the food boxes and given to seniors as part of their food supplement. We now have 53 [garden] boxes and are projecting a harvest of 7,000 bags of fresh produce to be distributed [in 2012].”

The organization also maintains a closet of medical accessories, and Seeds for Seniors has given away hundreds of items, including electric wheelchairs, walkers, bathroom accessories, wheelchairs, lift chairs, oxygen tanks, nebulizers, CPAP machines and hearing aids.

“With the growing population of seniors with unmet needs, our food demand is increasing along with the need for medical accessories,” Dr. Coyle says. Seeds for Seniors continually seeks additional food resources as well as volunteers to assist with the variety of tasks that are vital to the success of the program. “We are always in need of food and volunteers,” Dr. Coyle says, citing volunteer opportunities for delivering food boxes and medical accessories, picking up food or bagging produce.

The noble mission of Seeds for Seniors has inspired a significant amount of contagious enthusiasm among the volunteers in the organization. “The gardens are making a difference, [and] a huge impact on thousands of lives in our county,” says Administrative Assistant Julie Kendall. “We are all honored to be a part of something that is making a difference in the lives of beloved seniors, [and] it is a joy for us to be a part of this!”

For more information on the Seeds for Seniors program, visit www.seeds4seniors.com or call 319-731-1333.

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