As I hit snooze for the second time on Saturday morning, the dozens of garden gloves lying on my floor were a reminder of the day ahead of me, and the volunteer opportunity that was stealing my precious weekend sleep. A couple of United Way colleagues and I would be traveling to West Oakland to join Philadelphia Eagle cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and several teen scholars from his foundation to help build a garden at People’s Grocery of Oakland.
Both organizations share United Way’s goal to cut poverty—the Asomugha Foundation focuses on helping disadvantaged youth go to college, while People’s Grocery believes that healthy food is the key to economic and social prosperity. Nnamdi is one of 19 NFL players who are serving as Live United Ambassadors, teaming up with United Way and dedicating their time to empower disconnected youth.
Despite playing for Philadelphia, Nnamdi has never forgotten his west coast roots. Growing up in Los Angeles and attending CAL State Berkeley, where he was drafted by the Raiders, Nnamdi remains committed to the people in his home state of California. In 2006 his foundation launched the annual Asomugha College Tour for Scholars program, which takes low-income high school students on college tours.
Cutting up cantaloupe for my breakfast, I began to ponder how food has impacted my own life—rallying family for special occasions or catching up over a home-cooked meal, meeting one of my best friends waiting in line for meatless chili—food plays in integral role in almost every area of our lives. Yet, there are many people in America who go hungry or lack proper access to nutritious foods. According to People’s Community Market, 76% of West Oakland residents want more local healthy food options. Our project that day—at a centrally located community garden at People’s Grocery, will help turn this desire into a reality.
With some NFL manpower, the ACTS teens, People’s Grocery and United Way staff, and local youth volunteers eager to work with a football star, the day’s work proved that there truly is strength in numbers. Working collectively, we were able to finish a raised garden bed, ready for planting and learn some gardening basics.
Lunch was shared over laughs, Facebook friend requests and stories about our own favorite meals. To me, this volunteer opportunity not only demonstrated the extreme importance of healthy eating and youth education, but also how powerful an effort can be when people from all types of backgrounds connect and work towards a common goal.
Get connected to a United Way volunteer opportunity at www.uwba.org/volunteer