Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

June 4, 2013

Growing ‘gardens’ requires volunteers

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Supplies to help create “gardens of hope” for residents at Cherokee County nursing homes have started to come in, now all that are needed are volunteers to help set up and plant these container gardens.

Not only would these folks help free up employees from sponsoring businesses, who last week set up a container each at Jacksonville's Gardendale Rehab and Nursing Center and the Cherokee Trails Rehab and Health Care facility in Rusk, it would truly become a community effort by bringing together generations of citizens, said Betty Lou Smith.

“My thought is that it would give everyone something in common in our communities,” said Smith, who initially proposed the Garden of Hope to her husband, Joe Smith. The couple, who operate the Joe Smith Plant Farm in Jacksonville, joined forces with the Lone Star Military Farmers to launch the garden effort late last month.

The Garden of Hope, she explained, is more of a ministry than a project, giving nursing home residents an opportunity to once again enjoy a favorite past-time in a way that wouldn't put much stress or strain on their bodies, because the containers are actually hip-high galvanized tubs that sit high enough for wheelchair-bound residents to easily care for.

“It would be both fun and awesome mental therapy,” a hobby for residents to look forward to as they monitor the success of their gardens – which so far have been planted with produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, Swiss chard and peppers, as well as marigolds, which serve as aphid-deterrent for the tomatoes (also known as practicing companion gardening) – she said.

Nursing home administrators earlier said that their residents were excited about the venture, looking forward to a chance to once again employ their green-thumbs, while bringing back fond memories of tending the gardens they raised as home-owners.

While businesses like the Smith Plant Farm – along with Jacksonville Auto Glass, Heath & Heath Hardware and Gibson Signs, as well as organizations like Spooktacular Bull Bash, and the Lone Star Military Farmers – are throwing their weight behind the Garden of Hope by providing plants and materials needed for the container gardens, one essential element is still lacking: Help to put these gardens together.

Ideally, individuals 15 and older would donate their time to help load and unload the tubs, soil and plants being transported to the nursing facilities, then assist with setting up the tubs and their contents for the residents, assisting senior gardeners as requested.

“They can help for a day, or whenever we're setting up these containers, or someone can help for the duration (that a residential home has these gardens),” Smith said, explaining that the Garden of Hope is an open-ended venture. “This fall, we'll be redoing the containers with fall vegetables and flowers, so help will very much be needed.”

She specifically mentioned this garden ministry as an ideal one for youth groups or church groups that do community service, although all volunteers will be welcomed.

“It's a good way for people – especially our youths – to get to know others in their community,” Smith said.

To learn more about becoming a sponsor – or setting up a Garden of Hope at a nursing home, contact either Joe or Betty Lou Smith at 903-586-2931.

Sponsorships for the container gardens are ongoing, Smith said: For $400, a full sponsor will provide everything for a complete raised-bed container, and will have their name placed on the container. $250 will provide a single container; $100 provides dirt; and a $50 sponsorship will supply plants used for the project.