• Community Comes Together for Seniors' Victory Garden
    Thursday, December 12, 2013 at

  • By John Hankins, a member of the Ventura community.

    The sun wasn’t the only thing shining when volunteers planted a large Victory Garden at the Ventura Convalescent Hospital for senior residents who were literally beaming at the prospect of getting their hands dirty.

    It took months of planning by scores of volunteers and businesses who generously supplied and built a concrete patio for raised beds that gives the seniors a garden for healthy eating and recreation beyond bingo and TV.

    “I don’t want to wear gloves,” stated one resident in a wheelchair as she dug into the loam to plant basil, cabbage, carrots, kale, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers and watercress. Three kids doing community service were right beside her, grinning and digging.

    “The Senior Victory Garden has been installed by our Garden Angels and community partners who donated time, talent and treasure to make a simple dream a community miracle of giving back,” said Suz Montgomery, who spent untold hours creating the garden that seniors could tend and taste.

    While it may have started out as a little plot on a patch of ground, it grew like Jack’s beanstalk into an elaborate design of raised beds circled by a concrete walkway for wheelchairs. On the borders were spaces for fruit trees and bushes and flowers that will attract butterflies. On another side of the facility near the kitchen were two raised beds set aside for herbs and spices.

    The idea was borne from Montgomery’s Extended Learning Academy classes through VACE (Ventura Adult & Continuing Education). The hospital, affectionately known as The Californian, had a large area covered with grass, plenty of room to build the garden. Montgomery started asking a couple of people to help or donate and word got around fast … and the project’s scope grew and grew.

    On the clear day of the planting in late October, the seniors wheeled out and wore colorful sunhats, anxious to cup holes in the loam and lovingly place the plants’ roots inside, tamping it down in a petting motion.

    “We will be having a Grand Garden Opening very soon to thank and recognize all the folks who made this miracle happen for our beloved seniors,” Montgomery said. That includes 27 partnerships and volunteers. They include:

    Fiona Dunne, a landscape designer who met Montgomery while visiting her father at the facility. Myles ‘Danny’ Smith of the Ventura Fire Department (Station #1) and a team that donated time, talent and tools.

    --Ojai Lumber, which donated and precut the wood for the planters.
    --Slate Ready Mix for the concrete.
    --Brian Dale for his backhoe.
    --For the irrigation system, Jim's Plumbing and Vic's Plumbing Supplies.
    --Agromin President Bill Camarillo, who donated the soil.
    --Ted Cook of Ventura Rentals, for equipment.
    --Jason Hodge, primary builder of the raised beds.
    --Sharon Weddle of Sharon’s Plants in Newhall, who sells at the Ventura Farmers’ Market.
    --Corona Seeds of Camarillo.
    --Don Rodrigues, former chair of the agricultural and natural resource program at Ventura College.
    --Lynn Mikelatos of Ventura City Corps who brought teenaged volunteers to help.
    --Nan Drake of E.J. Harrison & Sons.
    --Bill Kracht of The Players Casino.
    --City of Ventura.
    --Individuals: Diana Boydston, Linda Brug, Brian Dole, Bette Goldenring, Jim Mangis, Chris Sayer, Guy Webb and Eric Werbalowsky.
    --Renee Jones, director of The Californian and the entire staff, who will ensure the seniors get help in future plantings and harvesting.

    As participant Jim Manis said on Facebook, “it was a special, magical afternoon.”

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