Masonic resident community gardens take bloom during pandemic
COVID-19 required everyone to rethink their hobbies, interests and ways to stay active. Residents at Masonic, under the guidance of landscape supervisor Suzette White, took this opportunity to get outdoors and build the community’s gardens.
Suzette, who shares more than 40 years of horticulture experience with residents, accepted the task of finding the needed supplies during a time when stores and delivery services were facing their own challenges. Fortunately, with the help of local partners such as Goodwin, Shady Ben Nursey and St. Matthews Feed & Seed, Suzette was able to get residents the supplies they needed to not only make their gardens survive, but thrive.
Suzette, along with several members of the Grounds and Maintenance departments, came together to build raised beds last winter to prepare for the upcoming spring season. Little did they know how this effort would make a huge difference during an unexpected pandemic. The team handmade 20 raised beds that would allow residents to tend to their gardens greater ease than a traditional ground-based garden. When Suzette started at Masonic is 2017, she started the Margaret Ricketts Community Garden and today it has bloomed into something beyond her wildest dreams.
Residents from Grove Pointe Assisted Living, Village, Miralea and Meadow Active Lifestyle Communities come together (yet apart) to grow herbs, flowers, vegetables but most importantly friendships.
One resident in particular helps Suzette run the gardens from behind the scenes. Gardening has been a life-long hobby for Meadow Active Lifestyle resident Lynda Stuart, who spends four to six hours each day in the community garden. Prior to moving to Meadow two years ago, Lynda lived on a 16,000-acre farm in Virginia. Along with her vast knowledge in farming, Lynda is the first to jump in to help out other residents who need assistance tending their gardens.
Another Meadow resident, Paul Jennings, also enjoys the community garden on a daily basis. “I come out here every morning. This gets people out and is so fun. We are outdoors away from each other, but are still interacting. We don’t
come here to talk about the pandemic, we are talking about gardening,” said Paul. He added, “Suzette gets us everything we need to make all of this happen.”
In his garden area, Mr. Jennings enjoys growing gigantic dwarf sunflowers, eight varieties of petunias, and herbs such as parsley, thyme, dill, basil and rosemary. He barters his herbs in exchange for fresh veggies from other gardeners.
Village Active Lifestyle residents Mike and Darlene Vest have lived at Masonic for about a year and said that the community garden has been a nice way for them to meet people. They are growing okra, six different types of tomatoes and eggplant.
Darlene said, “What we grow doesn’t go to waste. We put a basket of veggies out in the main hall so everyone can enjoy them.” She added that they have three daughters who live locally and also benefit from their garden.
Thelma has been a Village resident for 20 years. “I’ve always lived in an apartment so I’ve never been able to have my own garden until now. I like to grow flowers, but enjoy seeing all of the residents grow their vegetables.”
Grove Pointe Assisted Living resident Victor Catalano checks on his garden several times a week. He enjoys growing a variety of flowers and Jersey giants which remind him of his home state New Jersey. Victor also shares his vegetables with his neighbors and son.