Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 21, 2013

Gardening project will delight nursing home residents

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — A “Garden of Hope” container gardening project will allow nursing home residents an opportunity to dust off their green thumbs while creating a bit of beauty in their new homes.

“We're very excited about it, very tickled because we have some residents who have really enjoyed gardening, and this gives them an opportunity to pursue that hobby,” said Cindy Pugh, administrator of Jacksonville's Garden-dale Rehab and Nur-sing Center.

“Most of our residents have had gardens when they were at home, and this brings a little bit of home back to them, and a sense of fulfillment when they had their flower gardens,” added Andrea Hill, administrator of Cherokee Trails Rehab and Health Care in Rusk.

It was his wife Betty Lou who thought up the nursing home project, said Joe Smith, who operates the Joe Smith Plant Farms in Jacksonville.

“She kind of came up with the idea and I liked it, but we had to put it on hold for a while,” he recalled. “Then she talked with Lois (Hutson, Lone Star Military Farmers support specialist-resource development), and it started going from there.”

That was two weeks ago, and from that point forward, it's been a whirlwind of activity getting the Garden of Hope project realized.

“We had two more (farming) issues on our agenda that we wanted to address: Schools and nursing homes … and Betty Lou and her husband had a passion to get into the nursing home,” Hutson said. “She expressed that she wanted to join us in our mission.”

At this time, six entities have thrown their weight behind the Garden of Hope: Along with the LSMF and Spooktacular Bull Bash – which has been a staunch supporter of the different LSMF projects by donating seeds and helping with promotion – Joe Smith Plant Farms will be providing bedding plants and flowers for the galvanized metal containers that have been donated by Heath & Heath Hardware Inc. Gibson Signs and Jacksonville Auto Glass also are throwing their weight behind the project.

Opportunities are still available for public sponsorship. 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.

Because the containers reach high off the ground, wheelchair-bound residents will be able to easily navigate the raised beds without feeling strain.

“That helps them to be able to get around, and they'll be high enough for residents to reach over and work with plants,” Hill explained. “Some of the residents have (worked in these kinds of gardens) before, so they're excited that we're getting them here.”

The containers will be located behind each of the care facilities, where the grounds are already set upin a way that makes it easier for residents to navigate, the women said.

“They actually have a garden with vegetables in it, but they're not raised beds,” Hill said. With the container gardens placed nearby, “they'll be able to work in both. And the building shades the area, so they can they can be out there in the afternoon and it won't be so hot for them.”

Smith said he hopes that the idea catches on, not only in Cherokee County, but elsewhere, because he and his wife feel that it's something that will bring residents pleasure.

“Our hearts go out to the older folks who are there – we want to do something to help cheer them up a bit,” he said.

Meanwhile, nursing home residents are counting the days they can sink their fingers into the soil and create havens of beauty where they live.

“They just can't wait,” Pugh 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.