With one successful citrus season under its belt, Citrus for Kids, a local nonprofit that hires kids to pick unwanted fruit, is getting ready for another year and making plans for expanding its operations.
In the Valley thousands of homeowners have citrus trees in their yard but few have use for all the fruit on the tree. When it’s not picked it falls to the ground and becomes food for animals, especially roof rats which have been known to cause problems inside homes in Phoenix.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Sam Barber decided to start a nonprofit in hopes of putting all the unwanted fruit to good use while teaching kids about hard work.
Last citrus season Citrus for Kids created partnerships with the Wake Up Club, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development and Passages to have kids pick fruit in Ahwatukee Foothills, Tempe, Chandler, Arcadia and Dobson Ranch. All the fruit that was picked was sold to local cafes and farmers markets.
“We were looking for volunteer opportunities when I ran into Sam Barber from Citrus for Kids,” said Officer Benjamin Morris with the Phoenix Police Department, who works with the Wake Up Club in south Phoenix. “He provided an opportunity for the kids to come down to Ahwatukee and pick citrus for some senior citizens who would have trouble doing it themselves… The fruit they picked was then taken to various farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and other vendors and sold. A portion of the proceeds was returned to the club, which funded one of the end-of-year activities. It was a great service project with a great reward.”
The nonprofit benefits not only the kids picking the fruit but the residents who are having their fruit taken away. It’s a service they normally would have to pay someone to do.
“I don’t use the fruit,” said Ruth Gulliford, who lives near the Ahwatukee Recreation Center and has about eight trees in her backyard. “I used to be able to pick all the fruit and take care of it, but I’m unable to do that now. You don’t want to get rid of the trees because they’re nice shade trees. They (Citrus for Kids) came in and were almost done by the time I even noticed they were there.”
Amy Nicholls, activities coordinator at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center, said she heard many stories from residents who were pleased with the work and the work ethic of Citrus for Kids.
One ARC member had a friend sign her home up for the service without her knowledge. She signed up on her own later and then called back and asked to be removed from the list.
“She said, ‘I don’t know what happened. All the fruit must have fallen off,’” Nicholls said. “She didn’t realize Citrus for Kids had already been to her house and picked it for her.”
Since the end of the season Barber said he’s gotten calls from a few people with orchards who’d like other fruit picked. His goal now is to make Citrus for Kids a year-round operation and pick fruit like plums, apples, figs, dates, peaches, nectarines and pomegranates.
To do that they need more help from the community. Ladders, gasoline, gloves and even vans or trucks are needed. Barber said any monetary donations will go toward things like insurance and operating costs just to keep the nonprofit running.
Residents can schedule their trees to be picked or find out more about Citrus for Kids by going online to citrusforkids.org or by calling (480) 688-4041.
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