6/4/2014 6:00:00 AM Nursing home gardening blossoms
Stacy Cook, Neshoba County Nursing Home Animal Assisted Therapy Coordinator, recently celebrated along with the residents at the nursing home being selected as first-place winners in the General Federation of Women's Club Community Improvement Program Award grant. Cook and the Neshoba County Nursing Home residents began "Gardening With Ayla" 18 months ago and will use the grant to improve the resident's garden. Pictured with Cook is Ayla, the nursing home's therapy dog.
By ANGIE GRIFFING
What began 18 months ago as a small project to help stimulate a few patients at the Neshoba County Nursing Home will soon blossom into a large project for many residents to enjoy.
Stacy Cook, the nursing home's animal assisted therapy coordinator, along with a small group of residents and Ayla, the nursing home's therapy dog, began a small garden in the nursing home's courtyard last year. They called it "Gardening with Ayla."
The original handful of residents began each plant from seed and grew as quickly as their garden. What started as only six residents quickly became a group of over 25.
Cook was amazed to see the difference the garden made for the residents.
"We have had residents who rarely left their rooms start coming out everyday just to see how much the garden has grown," she said.
"We recognized the therapeutic qualities of the garden immediately in the residents. They were using fine motor skills to plant seeds and paint their flower pots and signs that decorate the garden. Some patients who were struggling with memory loss could remember with great detail the skills and tips it takes to have a successful garden, and they were quick to want to share that information with me," she added.
The residents watched their seeds grow last year and produce a hardy crop of assorted vegetables and herbs.
However, Cook realized quickly that the outside gardening experience was limited to only a few residents who were able to walk without any assistance. The garden was inaccessible to residents who were on walkers or in wheelchairs.
Cook began to research different grants that might be available to improve the garden, so that all residents could go outside and enjoy the fresh sunshine and beauty they could only see through the glass windows surrounding the courtyard.
After nearly a year of preparation, Cook and the Neshoba County General Federation of Women's Club (GFWC) submitted a scrapbook and an application for the Community Improvement Award grant.
The Community Improvement Program Award is the longest standing award given by the GFWC.
On April 26, Cook, Ayla, and members of the Neshoba County GFWC - Rosanell Phillips, Pat Mioton, Barbara Thaggard, Dot Thomas and Clara Reynolds - and the resident's garden club president, Earsel Chisolm, went to Jackson for the grant award ceremony. The nursing home won the first place award of $500 and will find out this month if they will win the national level grant award which could be as much as $5,000.
Cook is excited about the grant and already has plans for building a sidewalk, patio and raised beds for the residents who have thus far been unable to venture into the garden due to the uneven ground.
To celebrate the nursing home's award, the patients and Ayla were treated to a luau on May 29. With Hawaiian leis, tropical flowers, a tiki bar and barbecue sandwiches, the residents had a festive celebration.
Cook said being chosen for this grant would give the residents freedom to enjoy what they've only been able to see through the glass windows.
"This garden has been so much more than just dirt to these residents. It has given them back a piece of their lives that so many used to enjoy. I knew nothing about gardening. They have taught me everything. I am so thankful to be their hands and feet. Once we get the sidewalk built, they'll be able to be out here with me," Cook added.