Freshman Profile: April Parsons' family creates community garden to feed the hungry
Incoming freshman April Parsons and her father have sewn a special bond, and their community is reaping the benefits.

April's father, Brian, was someone she looked up to throughout her childhood. In her mind, he was invincible. But in 2006, when he was diagnosed with cancer, she became terrified. Roles reversed, and the man who once was taking care of her now needed her care. April's strength through it all came from realizing that she was just as important in her dad's life as he was in hers.

After a courageous battle, Brian became cancer free and decided to embark on one of his lifelong dreams ? planting a large garden that could feed people in his community who were experiencing difficult times. His dream became April's, and Parsons Produce was established in 2008 in Sioux Falls, S.D., Four acres of land were turned into a fully working garden that fed the homeless.

?This first year was tough,? says April. ?This unkempt pasture was always full of weeds and required almost constant attention. These four acres were all cared for by hand. We planted it, weeded it and harvested with little machinery and a lot of help from volunteers.?

During the second year, Parsons Produce became an official non-profit. More land became available in 2009 and local churches, individuals and McCrossan's Boys Ranch, a non-profit dedicated to helping disadvantaged boys develop into successful men, plunged their hands into garden work as well.

?Our primary focus is to help feed the hungry, but even more specific, hungry children,? says April. ?We live in a decent size city of about 175,000 people, so we knew the produce wouldn't be wasted, and we trusted God to put it into the right hands of the kids who needed it.?

Each year has had its ups and downs with varying amounts of land and crops, drought conditions and the amount of people to serve. But every year has also been a blessing to the Parsons family and to their community.

April has been a big part of the garden's success, involved in every aspect from planting seeds to delivering the produce. And she has not gone unchanged by her role in the garden. Volunteering is a passion that she says will remain a constant in her life, including in her academic endeavors at HPU.

And even though she's moving 1,300 miles away from her home in Sioux Falls to double major in chemistry and biology and minor in music at HPU, she says she'll carry her lessons from the garden to High Point, N.C., and continue to serve others.

?Whether it is gardening or not, volunteering my time doesn't even seem like a sacrifice to me anymore simply because I have become accustomed to it,? she says. ?I know that I will be able to serve others more willingly due to Parsons Produce.?