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May 13, 2014

Garden club gives seniors a way to give back

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Clinton Township Senior Center is planting a new seed in terms of leisure and assistance.

The center’s garden club will soon be breaking ground on its “Garden Life” feature, meant to invigorate area seniors and help those in need.

This particular “Cherrywood Garden of Life” is a brand new venture in the township, finally spawning after much deliberation in the past. Cherrywood Nursing and Living Center in Sterling Heights is the main sponsor of this endeavor, making it possible for seniors to enjoy themselves while also giving back.

This senior-accessible garden, complete with benches and tables to help prevent injury, will primarily be growing vegetables with a few herbs on the side. About 30 seniors were already part of “Garden Life” at press time, and more are expected to come aboard once the garden is in full swing.

The best part? Any overflow of harvest will go to other seniors in need.

“It’s seniors helping seniors,” said Garden Life Program Coordinator Debbie Travis. “Once the growing fun begins, I know we’ll have a lot more hands on board. A lot of the members of the club have been gardening since they were little and many don’t have the backyard to do it anymore.

“They are excited to get their hands dirty but hope to pay it forward and offer up healthy vegetables (to those in need).”

Travis said that the center is still looking into whether the crops will be donated to a community food bank or a senior-specific food bank. She called it an “ironic stage of life” for seniors to choose to either not do anything with their free time or give themselves to others like them.

“I’m happy to report that all our members here are incredible givers,” Travis said.

Those with hands on deck for this project toured community gardens to get an idea of the gardening style they wanted to implement. Once approval from the Public Services Department was granted, the “backyard” was plotted out with help from other departments, like parks and recreation.

Denise Hubbard is a registered nurse in charge of business development and community relations at Cherrywood, which made a $1,000 contribution toward the garden and is actively drawing support.

The project is important to Hubbard because it combines physical activity, fun, food growth and charity. The senior population is a vast one that she believes needs more support in the community.

“When you’re working with seniors and geriatric patients, or persons in general, people don’t grow old because of age; they grow old because they lack purpose, fun, enjoying life,” Hubbard said. “When you involve seniors in projects, not only are they getting physical, mental and social activity — it’s an all-around healthy process.

“With all the cutbacks out there, there’s not a whole lot of money. The more we do for our seniors, the better.”

While Cherrywood is the biggest sponsor, volunteers have donated their time, and donations have come in from various places, too. Travis wants to preserve and cultivate the garden for long-term success, especially since it’s in a public domain like the Civic Center.

In the end, it’s all about one person helping another — no matter the age.

“Camaraderie is the No. 1 attraction to everything we do at the Senior Center,” Travis said. “Socialization and connectivity is key, but beyond that, we are really feeling the need to produce our own food and have a hand in our nongenetically-modified vegetables and to keep everything organic.

“We hope for a good crop and to donate to the less fortunate. There are lots of components, and it’s picking up like wildfire.”

Travis said that a 50-by-30 foot garden is expected to be ready for the spring season, with the groundbreaking set to take place this month. For more information or to donate, call Debbie Travis at (586) 723-8125.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec at nmordowanec@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.