Looking at the end of another summer and what a summer it has been! The garden has been growing like crazy as has the support that we have seen.
Our House ‘s resident Therapeutic Garden Director planted some seeds and reaped the bounty of a new position at the Multnomah County HIV Clinic; she was also accepted to Portland State for the Master’s in Public Health Program starting in September. Her past years of working in the garden has helped establish the program that it is now which includes a reference manual on how and when what needs to be planted. She also was instrumental in getting volunteers, staff, residents and clients involved with weekly harvests and helping teach people the benefits of outside gardening.
Though we have said “good-bye” to our resident green thumb fear not as we have “hired” a volunteer who has just as much passion. He has helped take over the helm and continued the great work that was started. The residents / clients continue to thrive as we start to get ready for fall planting and cleaning of the summer bounty.
There's a line in a Bob Marley song that says "Sun is shining, weather is sweet, make me wanna move my dancin' feet" That's what Thursday’s feel like around here as the Community Garden Group works with their our own rhythm outside all afternoon. Several new garden volunteers and interns have joined us, and we received compliments from the interim medical director from Health Share!!!! We’ve also sent out several request letters to local garden outlets and organizations to help us with the garden and have received, so far, a gift certificate for 12 4" vegetable plants arrived in the mail from one of the outreach letters we sent out last week!!
The Our House Garden provides sustenance and creates a place of serenity and healing. Residents and volunteers plant and maintain the garden to provide produce for the kitchen and peace for the mind.
April showers may bring May flowers but until then we need to first start working on the garden and get it ready! And this is exactly what Erica Crane, Our House BSN ACRN, has started to do. Erica is in the process of reaching out to our community partners to see where we can get support for plants and tools that will be needed for the garden this year. The residents are excited as we start the gardening season and have already started to clean out the beds in preparation for the Spring weather to come. Erica is helping residents understand the importance, and procedure, needed to make this year’s garden a huge success.
In January we had approval for a student from PSU to complete her organizational experience project with the Therapeutic Garden Program. Her focus will be on program design, evaluation, and policy. She will help with many of the unmet needs: identifying these and opportunities for data collection, creating a framework from which we can all understand the steps in the process and streamlining communication. She will be here from March until August providing 150 hours of work. We are very excited to work with her as she brings experience of being a project manager and garden programmer to the table.
As the holidays come up we look towards our community partners and supporters to help those that would otherwise not be able to enjoy the holidays. In the month of November we had several 3rd party events where donations to Esther’s Pantry and Tod’s Corner were collected with the barrels that we have. Two of our local establishments, Embers and Crush Bar, collected over $325 and 400+ lbs. of non-perishable food and personal care items. On top of this we received over $700 from The Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Oregon, which was used to buy over 30 meals for our NHCP clients.
The garden club has been working on winterizing the garden by filling dirt where needed as well as other tasks. As we look towards the winter months, they have started to plan what will be planted in the spring. Our head gardener, Ericka Crane, will start the process of contacting individual donors and organizations that helped this year in hopes of getting them to support us once again.
It’s the 21st week for the gardeners and what a summer it has been! Our residents have been busy working in the garden and growing a bounty of different fruits and vegetables. Over the past 21 weeks the residents and clients have grown and harvested raspberries, kale, cucumbers, blueberries, beet greens, lettuce, radishes, and other items. These fruits and vegetables are used as supplemental additions to the food that we receive through donations and purchased items. Residents have learned the importance of working together as a team; and how each person’s position and input adds to the experience that they receive. It's been quite warm out there, and food is growing despite a few challenges. It's rather amazing to see what Mother Nature can do all on her own
On a personal note I was able to volunteer at our food bank and clothing store on Thursday, July 31st. I have been with Our House for a little over six years now and this was the first time I had the honor of volunteering at this wonderful program that we provide. Several of our clients, because of transportation issues and wanting to get to Esther’s when it first opens, were there to greet me when I arrived at 1PM. Esther’s Pantry and Tod’s Corner is open three days a week, and provides non-perishable and perishable food as well as men’s lightly used clothing and basic household items. Clients “shop” their way through Esther’s Pantry where they select their food boxes based on their dietary needs and current living conditions. The clients are walked through Esther’s Pantry where they select canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy.
What touched me most about the experience was the stories that were told while shopping. The past that each of these people had – where they were, what they had done in their lifetimes, and where they were today. I was also touched by the gratefulness that each of the clients showed for these programs. One client said to me that while they use several other resources for supplemental food, that Esther’s Pantry was by far their favorite. When I asked why they said “The amount of respect, kindness, and lack of judgment that I receive when I am here is like no other. No one cares about my HIV status, they care about who I am as a person.”
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