By Michelle Pelletier Marshall
---- — ROWLEY — There are a lot more fresh vegetables on the plates of Rowley’s senior citizens this fall, and that’s thanks to the hard work and dedicated efforts of 12-year-old Isabella Lesinski, a seventh-grader at Triton Regional Middle School.
Lesinski toiled through the spring and summer at a 20-by-20-foot plot in Rowley’s community garden with the goal of donating 200 pounds of fresh produce, herbs and flowers to the Rowley Council on Aging before the first frost.
Last Monday, she did just that, making her final delivery to the council that put the poundage donated at 220. Surplus vegetables graciously donated by Lesinski’s more than 40 co-gardeners at the community garden put her over the top for her goal.
“I can’t believe I did it, and what a great feeling it is to know that I did accomplish my goal,” said Lesinski. “To know that I grew and gave fresh food to the members of the council to help them be healthier is amazing.”
Lesinski’s “Sowing the Love — The Fresh Food Project” was undertaken for achievement of her Girl Scout Silver Award. Under the guidelines of the award, she had to commit 50 hours of service time (she did over 60) and achieve a goal that benefitted the community.
Lesinski systematically thought out her project and how she would attain each goal. First, she met with council members to see what the most sought-after vegetables were, then she collected donations from local companies for seeds, plants and fertilizer, then she tended to her garden every day during the summer, gathering the harvest as it was ready and delivering it nearly weekly to the council for distribution.
“This proved to be a wonderful opportunity to put surplus produce that might otherwise be compost into the homes of seniors who no longer garden or have many opportunities to obtain fresh produce, as many no longer drive,” said Maryellen Mighill, director of the Council on Aging. “Bella certainly surpassed her goals, will earn her Silver Award from her efforts, and made this summer extra sweet and healthy for many happy seniors!”
To add to Lesinski’s remarkable story, she, with the help of her mom, applied for and won a grant for $1,000 from ABC- Summer of Service. The grant recognizes “ongoing youth-led projects that highlight creativity and commitment of young people working to meet the needs of others.”
Lesinski recently sent a letter to the Board of Selectmen indicating that she was donating this grant money to the town for use, she hoped, at either the Council on Aging or the Agricultural Commission, particularly to ensure the continued operation of the garden.
Town Administrator Deborah Eagan has earmarked these funds to the Agricultural Commission to defray expenses and operate programs.
“This was the quite the project for a young woman like this,” said selectmen chairman Bob Snow. “We think the world of you, Bella — thank you for your efforts.”
Snow also noted that this wasn’t the first time Lesinski has been recognized by the town. When she was in fifth grade, it was her original poem that was chosen to commemorate 9/11 in Rowley and was inscribed on the monument in town.