Taking part in Sowing Seeds for Life project were La Verne students, from left, Matt Sustayta, Armando Capia, Lane Jackson, Albert "Pablo" Acosta, Jayden Earlywine, Ted Brestow, Cassandra Egan and Adriana Navarro. Far right is academic advisor Michelle Kechichian.
By Larry Stewart
Eight University of La Verne students exemplified volunteerism on Martin Luther King Day, taking part in a Sowing Seeds for Life project that involved planting 25 young orange trees.
Sowing Seeds for Life, or SSFL, a La Verne charity that, among other things, feeds some 6,000 needy people per month throughout the East San Gabriel Valley, arranged for the students to plant 20 trees at the Glendora Seventh-Day Adventist Church and five more in a nearby backyard at the home of longtime Glendora resident Marian Reich.
Coordinating the project was Vicki Brown, the SSFL founder and CEO who is also CEO and president of DPI Labs, an aerospace company in La Verne. Her key helpers were SSFL volunteers Mary Moody and Marilee Goodwin.
Lane Jackson and Ted Brestow put tree in position to be planted.
Planting trees is just one facet of the multi-faceted SSFL charity, which also operates a community farm at Falcon Ranch, a 45-acre spread owned by John Defalco in the foothills of the San Dimas Canyon.
Brown said not only will the fruit from the orange trees help provide funds for her charity but the trees also improve the environment.
“Trees produce oxygen, and just two trees can provide all the oxygen one person needs to breathe,” Brown said.
The trees planted by the La Verne students were donated through the courtesy of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Brown said the Fruit Tree Foundation, another non-profit charity, contacted the food bank’s Andrea Ramirez, who in turn contacted her.
In November, the L.A. food bank named Brown the 2011 winner of the Tony Collier Award because of her dedication to the fight against hunger.
The Fruit Tree Foundation connected Brown with the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, which donated the trees. Greg DeSmet, Paul Bown and Jorge Montero of DPI Labs transported the trees to DPI Labs at 1350 Arrow Highway, where the University of La Verne students gathered Monday morning.
Mary Moody offers advice to Ted Brestow and Pablo Acosta.
The La Verne group included six members of the La Verne track team plus graduate assistant coach Jose Linker, two female students from Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, academic advisor Michelle Kechichian and school chaplain Zandra Wagoner.
The members of the track team, all distance runners, were junior Matt Sustayta, sophomore Albert “Pablo” Acosta, freshmen Lane Jackson, Ted Brestow, Armando Capia, and Jayden Earlywine. The two sorority sisters were senior Adriana Navarro and sophomore Cassandra Egan.
Linker said Pat Widolff, La Verne’s head track coach, encouraged members of the team to participate. It was strictly on a volunteer basis – there was no school credit involved.
Mike Downard, the owner of Rainbow Gardens Nursery in Glendora, served as planting consultant, working closely with Mary Moody. Other SSFL members playing key roles in the project were Marilee Goodwin and her sister Carolu Every. Their mother is Marian Reich, the Glendora resident who agreed to have five orange trees planted in her backyard.
Muriel and Dennis Foster, the grounds managers for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and Steve Leonard, who provided an auger to dig holes, were others helping put the project together.
Mary Moody recited a Martin Luther King Jr. quote that sort of summed up the day: “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve . . . You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
Mary Moody, Adriana Navarro, Michelle Kerchichian and Cassandra Egan, from left to right, did their part in Monday's project.