NORTH CREEK - The Adirondack Tri-County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in North Creek has become a bit more colorful lately, thanks to the recent addition of a memory garden.
Memory gardens, gardens designed to memorialize residents of assisted living facilities, are popular in such facilities around the country, and the Tri-County nursing home put its resources together and reached out to the community so it too could enjoy the numerous benefits of these beautiful and functional gardens.
According to David Lovelace, administrator of Tri-County, the nursing home has been looking for creative new ways to expand and continue to foster success as an assisted living facility in the Adirondack area.
"Facilities of this kind offer similar care, so what is our differentiating factor?" Lovelace posed. "Why not create a space that lets people experience the tranquility that a garden can offer? Having a memory garden gives us a competitive advantage."
The garden currently includes a mixture of annual and perennial plants, featuring numerous planters, trellises harboring clematis vines and honeysuckles, crabapple trees, a gazebo, bird feeders, several benches, and paved walkways that wind through and around the botanical bounty. The garden will be expanded in rustic Adirondack camp tradition, as part of the style consistent with Front Street's ski bowl development. Not only is the garden a joy to behold, it also serves as a place to carry out occupational therapy for residents.
"Feet markers will be painted on the walk ways so that residents can use the garden in conjuncture with therapies," said Lovelace. "In spring, we had residents plant seedlings, which was part of their weekly activities."
He noted that many of the Tri-County residents are from the Adirondack region, and have spent much time throughout their life enjoying the outdoors. Many of them would rather do therapy out in the fresh air of a garden than inside.
The garden is easily accessible by wheelchair, and Tri-County will soon be installing a screened-in porch off the garden where residents can relax and enjoy the sounds and sights of nature. Lovelace said that Tri-County employees plan to incorporate vegetable gardens next year. Residents and employees will be encouraged to enjoy the fresh vegetables and to cut flowers for arrangements.
The memory garden has been largely funded by donations from the community. Key players in bringing the garden to life were Chris Sears, a local Eagle Scout candidate, and Mandy Savarie, a community volunteer who graciously did all of the planning.
Sears needed a project that would help him qualify for Eagle Scouts, and lucky for Tri-County, chose to help develop the memory garden. Sears solicited donations from the community, which funded the amassment of around 350 different plants. He, along with 13 volunteers, came on July 12 of and completed the initial planting of the garden in just one day. Tri-county also called on Richard Vega, proprietor of Adirondack Rustic Designs, to bring the project together at whole-sale costs. Vega arranged a group of Amish workers to assemble and install the gazebo that is the centerpiece of the garden, another feat accomplished in a single day. The Garden Club, headed by Jamie Reynolds, has been an enormous help as well, and community members who would like to get involved are encouraged to join. While maintenance workers on staff have stepped up to the challenge of caring for the garden at present, a landscaper will be hired next year to ensure the garden is kept its best.
"The garden will be an ongoing project" commented Lovelace. "Our September newsletter will show off our accomplishments so far, and discuss our remaining unmet needs."
Lovelace said he was proud to note that someone was already sponsoring the gazebo, as well as a bench. Those who wish to contribute in the name of loved ones can donate and have a bronze memory plaque in the garden.
So far, the newly developed memory garden has given all those involved with Tri-County something to be excited about. It was available for use this past weekend, and several residents were able to go out and enjoy it.
"My intent is that it becomes used all week for therapy and for families to spend time together. We are even going to have a grill out there." said Lovelace. "On Aug. 9, we are having a family picnic as an introduction to this garden. In time, we could open it up to more people; we may even hold services here such as weddings. Part of being a not-for profit organization is being available to the community for enjoyment."
While many rural nursing and rehabilitation centers are losing money annually, tri-county enjoyed substantial gains last year, a trend Lovelace hopes to see continue with the help of features like the memory garden that will serve to attract residents. Tri-county residents are already noticing the change; resident Edna Kenyon has a view of the garden from her room.
"It's nice to look out the window and see it, it's very beautiful and the flowers are so lovely, and every now and then you see some little birds," she remarked, "I like the gazebo; gazebos are something I've always liked. I watched the Amish men work on it, and it was very interesting."
Dorothy Bradley is another lucky resident with a room looking out at the garden.
"I like it because we are going to get to go out there, and it looks so nice with all the flowers." she said. "Especially when my daughter comes, she'll take me out there."
The memory garden is still in its infancy, and will continue to need the help of community members to grow and thrive. Anyone interested in donating to the 2009 memory garden fund should contact director of volunteers Jamie Reynolds at 251-2447.