Discovery Bay Sprouts Garden Club Co-founder Camille Hieb offers encouragement to a Byron Boys Ranch student as he digs a hole for a shrub.
A 16-year-old we’ll call Steve admits that when he first came to the Byron Boys Ranch youth rehabilitation facility, gardening wasn’t a seed he was interested in sowing. But thanks to the Sprouts Garden Club, Steve has begun planting trees, tending rose bushes and developing his green thumb. As he puts it, “I’m a real digger now.” Through the efforts of Sprouts founders Ryan Allen and Camille Hieb, young men like Steve are learning how to make their gardens grow through a volunteer off-campus program run by the garden club. For both the boys and the Sprouts, it’s a symbiotic relationship. “This is the first time some of these boys have been able to come off the ranch and it’s a really big deal,” said Allen, who along with Hieb works with the boys twice a week at the ranch as well as the occasional off-site project. “These are great boys and we are so happy to have them and see them get excited about gardening.” Another boy at the ranch, whom we’ll call Mike, said he used to watch his grandma when she gardened at her home. Now he wants in on the action. “I’m learning a lot about gardening and it’s really fun,” he said. “Now when I get home I can help my grandma in her garden.” Last week, a handful of the boys helped Discovery Bay Landscape Manager Fairin Perez plant trees and bushes along a stretch of road on Clipper Drive. Under the supervision of Allen and Hieb, the boys are working up a sweat as they dig, plant and water the plants, but they have nothing but praise for the program and its leadership. “This is my boss,” laughed “AJ” as he put his arm around Hieb. “I do whatever she says.” “I’m really happy that they are here; they have been a huge help,” said Perez. “It’s a nice community project for everyone.” The off-site program is volunteer-based, but the boys who sign up must be in good standing at the ranch and get the OK from their teachers to miss classroom time – even though they receive credit for participating. For 18-year-old “Adam,” the chance to get off the ranch grounds for a few hours and enjoy some time in the sun is satisfying. “We’ve learned a lot about how to plant things and today we learned about irrigation and water,” he said. “I’m really enjoying this. When I go home I’ll be able to help my mom plant things. I look forward to that.” For more information on the Sprouts Garden Club or to help with the Byron Boys Ranch program, call 925-516-2542 or 925-216-8092. To comment, visit www.thepress.net.