Ten years later– Blue Cross Giving Garden holds strong roots in EaganAugust 18, 2017
In 2008, three women had a simple yet innovative idea: plant a garden on the grounds of the Blue Cross Eagan campus and donate the crops to local food shelves.
To pitch the idea to their leaders, they boasted of the convenience of having a volunteer project right on the company grounds. Even more attractive, this near-by activity supplied employees with an opportunity to get some fresh air and physical activity. In addition, employees can work on team building, perhaps learn a new hobby and connect with the community where they work.
In honor of all the hard work that has been invested over the last ten years, we’re taking a look back at how this one garden grew into three Blue Cross garden locations (including a garden in the northern offices in Virgina, Minn.)— and a network of more than 20 companies— all which blossomed from the pro-activity of these three women.
Planting the first seeds
After gaining approval, a small plot was tilled for these ambitious gardeners to try their hand at this volunteer project. They began donating their harvest to one local food shelf. While they navigated their way through the season, the team knew they’d need more volunteers to help with the upkeep of their blossoming garden.
Their garden plot doubled for the second season so they added a second food shelf to accept their fresh donations and shared their story with colleagues in hopes of finding other green-thumbed employees to share in their efforts.
Meanwhile, the community relations team at Blue Cross began to share the initiative with their peers at other local companies. They soon found others raising their hands with an interest in starting their own corporate giving gardens. The gardening seed had been planted.
In the past nine growing seasons, the giving garden has donated over 6,500 pounds of food. More than 500 different volunteers have tilled, planted, weeded and tended to the garden over the years. Entire business teams have signed up to spent time together in the garden doing this work and sharing an experience away from their desks.
“This has truly been a great experience. It can be hot and sometimes difficult work, but it’s rewarding to see the plants grow into healthy food we can share with those in the community that need it the most” said Magda Surrisi, one of the original garden creators and a Blue Cross IT employee.
Growing their garden network
With so much enthusiasm from other companies, Susan Schuster, senior community relations consultant, began holding garden summits in 2010. There are two summits each year; one in the spring to get people started and another in the fall to share stories, tips and successes.
“More than 20 companies participate and we are always excited to hear how companies adapt this project to fit the needs of their community and abilities of their employees” she said.
Get gardening with the ultimate onsite volunteer project
More information about building your own corporate giving garden is available on the Blue Cross website.
Please contact Susan Schuster for more information on the September 13 fall garden summit.