On Saturday, September 20th, Nakayoshi members joined the San Francisco JACL Chapter in volunteering at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park to plant over a thousand donated plants (a variety of grasses and lavender) on their Volunteer Appreciation Day.

Gray and overcast, it was a typical San Francisco morning when Nakayoshi members found themselves at the sign in table at the Grove’s work day. Thinking we were going to be picking up trash all day, many of us were puzzled when were were handed gardening gloves.

Following the volunteer coordinator down a dirt covered stairway, we found ourselves in an open field of lush green carpet and a hillside sprinkled with potted plants set meticulously in sections marked by colored flags. We were instructed to help dig holes for the new plants and safely plant them into the ground.

With such a great turnout of volunteers, the entire plotted garden was done in a little over 3 hours.

The staff then took us within the “circle of friends”, and asked first time volunteers to assist in the planting of a new magnolia tree in appreciation of all of the Grove’s volunteers.

Sitting there, I grew to appreciate the beauty of such a communal sanctuary where people could come, reflect, mourn and heal. It also made me appreciate the hard work of community volunteers who come on a regular basis to retain the Grove’s beauty.

The National AIDS Memorial Grove is truly a special place in San Francisco, with a history that began with a community that was devastated by the AIDS epidemic and found a way to build a space where they could find peace and serenity. The Grove is a place dedicated to all who were affected by AIDS. A historical monument that was established in 1966 when Congress and the President approved the National AIDS Memorial Grove Act.

The true beauty of the Grove is the love and dedication of all those who believe in the space and continue to support it.

It’s great to know that we’ll be able to return to the Grove year after year and see the difference it made to plant these new flowers. To see the tree we planted together grow stronger and taller, and remember that we were fortunate to be part of resting its roots.

We really had a great time volunteering at the Grove and appreciate the SF JACL Chapter for allowing us to join them and commend them on their continual participation in this annual event.

Getting down and dirty was a lot of fun, and how did we end such a perfect day? In full Nakayoshi style, we treated ourselves to delicious bowls of ramen! Yum!

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