Meet the Volunteers


Volunteer Profile: Jean Hamilton

Fall 2009 interview with Jean:

How long have you been volunteering with SEEDS?

6 years [Now 9 years!]

Which programs do you volunteer with?

I started out mostly working with the SEEDlings program, tutoring, then I got interested in the garden. It sort of evolved. I started doing more with the flower beds to help with the flowers to sell. And I’ve had some input into what annuals and perennials to plant. 

How did you hear about SEEDS and what got you interested in becoming a volunteer?

Well I’ve known Brenda Brodie for a while, and I read about [SEEDS]. I used to be a school teacher at Holloway School when it was an elementary school so all my kids came from that area. I knew [SEEDS] would be a great program, particularly in that area.

Are there any memorable experiences you’ve had as a volunteer here?

It’s hard to think of just one thing…oh yes, working on the plant sale sign with Jose…[a former SEEDling]…his quality wasn’t up to snuff at the beginning so we had to go back and forth quite a bit, and then when he’d slow down, his quality got better. He was a good kid.

Any gardening words of wisdom you’d like to share with us?

[laughing] Just get your hands dirty and enjoy it! ….and there’s always next year!


Volunteer Profile: Connie Warren (left in photo)

How long have you been volunteering with SEEDS?

I started volunteering for SEEDS in 2003.

What got you interested in being a part of our organization?

My daughter Shilyh was getting her PHD at Duke that year, and she was the first one to find out about SEEDS. She loved it, and helped with the Seedlings after school program. She was so happy and taken with the organization that she wanted me to take part in it. I had just had a brain surgery, and was not really sure how people were going to like me with half of my hair gone. I never left. People at SEEDS have always been absolutely kind, caring, helpful, and involved in so much having to do with the community as a whole.

What do you do at SEEDS?

After trying a couple of jobs, I found out I like to cook, and that the kids at SEEDS, now big kids, like my food. So I keep bringing my “specialty dishes,” whatever they might be—Spanish, American, mixture of all I can think of. I use the vegetables from the SEEDS garden, and from the Farmers Market on Saturday. I try to include all of our local vendors products to help our community grow in health and goodness with a dish prepared with love and commitment.

What keeps you coming back?

I love what I do for SEEDS, and hope I can do it for as long as I am healthy and capable!

Volunteer Profile – Adrian Down

Adrian DownI had been noticing the SEEDS booth at the Durham farmers market for a year or two before I visited the garden for the first time.  That visit was the 2012 Pie Social, which was the tastiest introduction to a place that I can imagine.  I saw that SEEDS is strongly connected to the local community, and I wanted to find out more about what they do.  I was interested in volunteering at SEEDS because I support their mission.  I’ve continued to volunteer because I have a great time and because the garden is a beautiful, relaxing place to be.
I’m currently getting a Ph.D. in ecology.  I love teaching, but most of what I do these days is geared towards college-age students.  Working with younger gardeners at SEEDS is a great opportunity for me to think about teaching ecological concepts at a more practical and fundamental level.  The garden can be like a hands-on lab for teaching about ecology.  I also learn from the kids whenever I’m volunteering.  The feedback and ideas they have can be insightful, inspired, and sometimes entertaining.
In my past visits to SEEDS, I got to work with the summer camp groups.  Since I study ecology, I wanted to work with students about how plants can adapt to live in different environments.  Most plants are made of the same parts (leaves, stems, roots, flowers, etc.), but those parts look different on different plants, and there are usually reasons for those differences.  We drew pictures of the different parts of a fig tree and labeled them, and we found some plants in the garden that have developed different strategies for survival.  We looked at garlic, which stores extra sugars in the base of its stem (in the big tasty bulb that we humans like to eat), and herbs, which make strong smells and tastes so that fewer bugs eat them.  With the older campers, we tried to extract chlorophyl from some leaves, just to see the chlorophyl itself and to see if different plants have different pigments in their leaves.  I’m not sure if the experiment ever worked, but we had a good time trying.

Volunteer Profile – Lindsey Paydon

After graduating with a Political Science degree from the University of Missouri, I moved to North Carolina and got a job at Whole Foods as a cashier. I really wanted to get to know my new community and find a place to volunteer. Luckily Whole Foods had a volunteer day at SEEDS and I immediately fell in love with the garden and everything SEEDS teaches and promotes. I’ve been volunteering with SEEDS for about 4 months now and I always look forward to my volunteer shifts whether I’m pulling weeds in the garden, helping out with our youngest gardeners, or working in the office. SEEDS has been an incredible learning experience for me in so many ways! I’m thrilled to be a part of something so fun and also so important for our community. 

Jim photo for volunteer profile

Volunteer Profile: Jim Compton

How long have you been volunteering with SEEDS?
I started this past winter because, well, how can you not think of gardening when you’re in the midst of The Polar Vortex.
Which programs do you volunteer with?
I do gardening shifts with Hilary, Greta, and Jolie who quietly make sure I don’t harm anything of value with my horrendously-less-than-green thumbs.
What got you interested in becoming a volunteer?
I was in a very comfortable rut.  I coordinate volunteers at work (I’m a Pediatric ER nurse at UNC-CH) and it occurred to me that volunteering would be a way to maybe accomplish several things by doing one thing.  I wanted to be outside (Polar Vortex be damned !!) and wanted to get tired and dirty.  Hilary seems to always make sure this happens.
What is your favorite thing about SEEDS?
Obviously the people, warm and accepting, patient and caring.  But also the sense of doing what some call ‘good work’, work for no particular reason or reward other than it needs to be done.
What was your favorite childhood food?
Well, not brussel sprouts.  Maybe peanut butter and cheese sandwiches ?  Don’t ask.  And my mom’s cookies.
Any special SEEDS moments that stand out for you?
Getting all the stuff out of storage from that creepy office building.  Oh, you mean nice things.  Sorry.  My first day when I realized ‘this is really good and these people are of my tribe, even if I can’t garden a lick’.  When I realized how fortunate and lucky I was.
 Any words of gardening wisdom?  
Don’t let me near a plant unsupervised.                            
What is your most favorite thing to do?
I’m pretty passionate about walking long distances. I’ll be walking 300 miles down the rural Western Wales coast in May and another 200 miles or so somewhere yet to be determined in September. Anybody can come along if they like!                                                           


Jonah Sharkey Volunteer

Volunteer Profile: Jonah Sharkey


How long have you been volunteering with SEEDS?

I’m coming up on a year of volunteering with SEEDS. I started here shortly after moving to the Triangle from California.

Which programs do you volunteer with?
You’ll find me in the office. I help out with administrative work, fundraising and database management. 

What got you interested in becoming a volunteer? 

Before living here, I lived in Oakland, CA. While there I learned about Oakland’s massive food desert that prevents residents from getting access to good quality produce and having other healthy options. Many people shop at convenience stores and eat fast food. Many also don’t know how to grow their own food. I see SEEDS as an organization that helps to alleviate similar issues here in Durham.

What is your favorite thing about SEEDS?

My favorite thing about SEEDS is the staff. I appreciate how the unique way each member of the team contributes to make SEEDS what it is.

What was your favorite childhood food?

I grew up loving strawberries. I still can’t get enough of them. I particularly like them with cream or on top of waffles.

Any special SEEDS moments that stand out for you?

That would have to be working on the fall fundraiser. It was so inspiring to see how many people feel its important to support the work SEEDS does.  
What is your most favorite thing to do?

Spending time with my son has to be my favorite activity. He’s a precocious 7 year old. I enjoy seeing the world through his eyes, the ideas and questions he comes up with never ceases to amaze me and crack us both up. 

Tell us something about you that has nothing to do with gardening or food.              

For a couple of years I raised captive bred seahorses. They have a new brood of around 200 every two to three weeks! 

Dylan Jarrell

Volunteer Profile: Dylan Jarrell

How long have you been volunteering with SEEDS?

Since the end of July, 2014.

Which programs do you volunteer with?
I’ve gotten my hands dirty in the Southside Garden, and volunteer in the office, writing blog posts and supporting outreach.

What got you interested in becoming a volunteer? 

I had just finished my degree at CCCC. I studied Sustainable Technologies and had worked with Laurel (of SEEDS) on a project. I contacted her to see if anything needed doing, and it did!

What is your favorite thing about SEEDS?

I love the mission. It really speaks to what brings me to care about the planet and it is at the same time a calling to action. I appreciate that.

What was your favorite childhood food?

Pizza…..Probably pizza.

Any special SEEDS moments that stand out for you?

Being with the office and garden staff during the lunch hour. I had usually ate by then, but all the aromatic smells of fresh food being cooked up. It’s very nice.
What is your most favorite thing to do?

I really enjoy meditating and researching all-things-zen. I lived in a Zen temple for 2 months before I came to SEEDS.

Tell us something about you that has nothing to do with gardening or food.              

I have a tattoo of Bela Lugosi’s face as Dracula. I was obsessed with Dracula when I was a child, I even made a coffin out of cardboard to sleep in. Haha.


Volunteer Profile: George Maha

How long have you been volunteering with SEEDS?

I’m actually an Intern, for about 2 months.

Which programs do you volunteer with?

I am doing the adult internship; helping with research and design for the pollinator garden, later I may be doing some planting, developing literature explaining the purpose of various processes/spaces and putting this information on informative signs.

What got you interested in becoming a volunteer? 

While I was doing my entrepreneurial concentration courses at NC State I came up with a concept for a not-for-profit with a similar mission to SEEDS, I called it Gardens For Good (G4G).  Realizing the financial obstacles of creating my own organization I went online to see if there were any that were already out there and found out about SEEDS.

What is your favorite thing about SEEDS?

Just how many different problems it is working to solve (poverty, social justice, and health/ nutritional problems). While promoting childhood enrichment/supplementary education, sustainable agriculture, environmental health, and stronger communities.  Also, everyone that I work with or meet here are respectful and nice.

What was your favorite childhood food?


Any special SEEDS moments that stand out for you?

It is a really interesting time to be here and it is changing so rapidly.  I am sure that when I get to come back and see the pollinator garden finished it will be pretty special.

What is your most favorite thing to do?

Due to having so much going on right now sleep is #1, when I am less busy and have more energy I enjoy building things and growing plants. 

Tell us something about you that has nothing to do with gardening or food. 

I play chess, and am an advocate for Sustainable practices.

edited bob for newsletter

Volunteer: Bob Schwartz

Bob Schwartz doesn’t fit the popular definition of an activist.  He doesn’t take to the streets to protest the government, nor is he at war against the establishment.  He is a quiet man, living in Chapel Hill with his wife, and enjoying his retirement. After retiring from his position as a Computer Researcher at the University of North Carolina, Bob found that he had a surplus of free time. A friend from his synagogue suggested finding a nearby community garden to work at as a volunteer.  Bob liked this idea as he hoped to acquire some better gardening techniques in the process.

Bob began volunteering at the SEEDS community garden. He has not only acquired new gardening techniques; he helps to promote the maintenance and respect for the environment.  Regarding his work at SEEDS, Bob says, “I just do whatever [SEEDS] tells me to do.”  Bob has helped to restore the chicken coop, put mulch down in the gardens, and has even built a rock wall.

Bob’s activism extends beyond the fences of SEEDS.  He spreads the word about SEEDS and the positive impact it has on the community to others.  In this way, he is a grassroots activist.  Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to encourage others to join a cause.  He once spoke to a teacher who works at an elementary school in Durham and discovered that she had never heard of SEEDS.  After speaking with Bob, she decided to bring her class to SEEDS for a field trip. Bob truly believes that the physical garden will continue to grow and expand as long as there is the consistent support of the community and volunteers.  Bob hopes that he can spread the word about SEEDS and to help instill in others an appreciation for nature and the value of sustainable living.

As a native of Durham, Bob has seen the city change significantly over the years, going from a small, rural community to a vibrant, urban place – almost completely transformed from what it had been.  While he believes most of these changes are good, he has also noticed the implications of those changes such as gentrification and crime.  Much like his hometown, Bob has also transformed.  He believes his work at SEEDS has made him a better person.  While volunteering, he gets to work with a diverse group of people:  inner-city youth, staff, and volunteers from all walks of life.  Earlier this year, he worked alongside a young man who was arrested during a nonviolent Black Lives Matter protest.  Listening to this young man gave Bob a greater understanding of the movement.

Bob shows us that even completing mundane tasks like weeding or feeding the chickens can help a community thrive.  Through his volunteering at SEEDS, Bob has become a product of his own activism.  He has learned a lot and he encourages others to become actively involved in helping their community.