The garden at city-owned Bayer Farm soon will blossom again with crops to feed the Roseland community in southwest Santa Rosa. But the site also has become a place to help grow leaders like Ivan Chang.
The 19-year-old Santa Rosa Junior College student and Elsie Allen High graduate will be among the volunteers who turn out Friday afternoon for a special workday at Bayer Farm on West Avenue near Sheppard Elementary School. About a hundred people are expected to take part, including 22 AmeriCorps members serving in Sonoma and Marin counties.
The day will be just one more chance for Chang to volunteer on the park land that once was home to cows, sheep, chickens and a prune orchard. In recent years, Chang has planted a tree, distributed food in a summer lunch program for needy children and helped run a "Tom Sawyer" day, during which children climbed trees, searched for bugs and took part in a scavenger hunt.
"Ivan took such a lead on helping organize it," Magdalena Ridley, the park's outreach coordinator, said of last month's Tom Sawyer event. Ridley works for LandPaths, the nonprofit group that manages Bayer Farm for the city.
She said LandPaths is glad to have Chang volunteer at the park, at the group's office and at other programs, such as a recent orientation for hikers seeking public access permits for the 800-acre Taylor Mountain open space area.
"He's quite the young leader in our community," Ridley said.
Others agree. Santa Rosa Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi has appointed Chang to the city's 13-member Community Advisory Board. The group advises the council on such matters as public safety, capital improvement priorities and ways to spend public improvement funds.
Chang is interested in getting a degree in electrical engineering, but said he got his first chance to volunteer at Elsie Allen's Interact and Key clubs. He hasn't stopped since.
"It was fun to come up with games and stuff like that," he said of the Tom Sawyer event. He also found it valuable to watch architects and others lead community meetings on the future park plans for Bayer Farm.
"It's sort of like I'm learning for the future," he said.