Seeds of love,
a bounty of pride.

Saturday, July 18, 1998, Foxboro, Massachusetts - There is so much you can say about a person's pride. It sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Pride in oneself, pride in one's actions and pride in one's community can be the most powerful, positive motivations of our beings.

Frank Quarterone knows about pride. As manager of the Garden for the Needy farm stand for the past five years, he has seen pride build a great organization that has helped thousands of people, and he has seen pride almost tear a man apart.

It was late in the day, a few years ago, he recounts, when a car pulled up near the farm stand and stopped. The driver, a man in his late twenties, sat in the car, his arms folded atop the steering wheel, his eyes looking away and his mood indecisive. Quarterone sensed the man was struggling with something.

Nearly a decade ago, Whitey Vandenboom sought a life and a community in which he could be proud. He knew that in Foxboro Massachusetts - as there was in every community in this great country - there were people going hungry, and people in need of clothing, medicine and essential basics of a life.

Vandenboom also knew of the life-giving properties of vegetables. He knew that growing them is an act of life and that eating them is vital to life. The entire cycle - of sowing, nurturing, harvesting, preparing, cooking and consuming - is a beautiful chain of events. Each event builds character in oneself, and it builds strength and pride.

Vandenboom knew that, if he could interrupt this cycle and include other people, he could use the common vegetable to grow extraordinary pride in his community. With this goal in his sights, he and the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus opened the Garden for the Needy farm stand.

Now in its eighth season, the stand has raised over $130,000. Frank Quarterone and Al Ciardi now manage the stand, on Route 140 between Foxboro and nearby Mansfield. Much of the produce sold here is grown on an adjacent, three-quarter acre garden owned by the town, and much is purchased from a wholesaler. This year, they hope to sell enough produce to raise $18,000; last year's record.

Frank Quarterone adjusts prices at the Garden for the Needy farm stand, keeping them competitive. Area supermarkets even help by donating shopping bags.

The operation has blossomed lately, after the Knights of Columbus realized that they could not shoulder the workload of the very successful operation themselves. This was a turning point, as congregations from four area churches pitched in. Now the stand is open eight hours each day, seven days each week, from early July through early October, staffed with volunteers who get as much out of the work as they give.

"It's fantastic, it's busy and fun," says Lorraine Bedard, as she stacks corn from one of the twenty-two bushel bags she will sell today. "The people of Foxboro are very giving - everybody gives more than you ask."

Indeed, it is common for customers to refuse change, sometimes even with large bills for small purchases. The volunteers proudly wear name tags to encourage conversation. "It's mostly a people-type thing," says Lewis Bedard (no relation) as to why he puts in a four-hour shift each week.

Earl Furguson is the farm stand's gardener, working every day tackling weeds, harvesting produce and growing pride.

Quarterone continues his account of the man in the car. After spending twenty minutes staring out his windshield, the man opened the car door and got out. Hesitating, he walked to the front of the car and leaned against the hood. He held himself up by his arms, his hands clutching the grill, reaching for something, holding onto something. There he stayed.

Lorraine Garland runs the Foxboro Discretionary Fund, distributing money to area needy. She has seen many people benefit from the fund, supported largely by the farm stand. "It has really been a very helpful program for people," she says. "With the discretionary fund, nobody knows - except for myself and sometimes a board member - that a person recieves money. Everyone can get down on their luck sometimes. This helps them keep their pride through the rough times."

Garland may also give a person a chit which they may take to the Farm Stand and recieve vegetables. But most of the time it is money for clothing, food or utilities. "It's all about holding a family together," Garland says.

It has been because of the thousands of families taking part in this cycle - each person holding a link - that this program is such a success. People volunteering for hours each week, people going out of their way to buy produce at the stand, even people mustering the courage to seek help when they need it. No society of individuals can function on its own; it needs the balance of charity.

Business was slow that day, Quarterone remembers, and he stood under the tent with another volunteer, trying to understand why the man was there, but not wanting to confront him. Finally, the stranger made his move. He came away from his car, standing straight, and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. "Oh no," Quarterone said to the volunteer.

The next words Quarterone uttered softly, as the man was approaching and was looking into their eyes. "It's a chit," he said.

The man reached out his hand with the paper and told the volunteers, in a voice torn with pride and wrought with desperation; "If I didn't come here today," he said. "I don't know where my kids are gonna eat."

For information on organizing a farm stand in your community, contact Frank Quarterone, through the Knights of Columbus in Foxboro, Massachusetts: (508)543-8320

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