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Bearing fruit: Volunteers pick, pack and donate unused fruit from trees in 55+ community

Volunteers in Mesa, Arizona, pick fruit not being used to donate to area families in need.
Submitted by Dean C. Davis

Thrivent client Dean C. Davis wanted to make sure that citrus fruit from trees in the Citrus Gardens 55+ community in Mesa, Arizona, didn’t go to waste. The community is home to more than 550 manufactured homes, and about 200 of them have citrus trees bearing lemons, grapefruit, oranges, tangelos and clementines from January to early March each year.

“People couldn’t use all the fruit on the trees and were just dumping it,” says Dean, from Apple Valley, Minnesota, who winters in Mesa. “Four years ago, two neighbors and I decided to pull together some volunteers to pick and donate the fruit that wasn’t being consumed.”

That first year, they donated 1,000 pounds to a food shelf in Phoenix, about an hour away. But Davis hoped to distribute it locally, so the next year he called daycares, food banks, schools and churches within five miles of Citrus Gardens. Most were happy to get fresh fruit to help feed families in need.

In years two and three, the volunteers picked, packed and shipped 12,000 pounds of fruit annually. This included deliveries to shut-ins and residents in Citrus Gardens.

This year, Dean led a Thrivent Action Team of about 25 volunteers to help with the fruit. He used the seed money to buy a wagon, rakes and other equipment. With the recent extreme heat, this year’s fruit was smaller and ripened slower. However, the team still collected about 6,600 pounds.

“We’ve met and helped lots of wonderful people,” Dean says. “And this year we even had 300 pounds of oranges delivered from someone outside the park. It’s so rewarding.”

Apply to lead a Thrivent Action Team

You can put on a fundraiser, educational or service activity in your community and Thrivent will provide the resources you need to get started, including up to $250 in seed money.

Apply now

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