Hospice garden volunteers: Making life beautiful

Posted by Kirsten Jensen, Volunteer

Hospice garden volunteers: Making life beautiful
The Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter

For National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, JourneyCare is celebrating the many innovative and creative ways our staff and volunteers help provide care, support and companionship to positively impact the lives of JourneyCare patients and their loved ones. Learn more at journeycare.org.

If you ever run into people carrying mud-covered shovels at the front entrance of The Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington, you’re seeing JourneyCare volunteer gardeners at work. We volunteers have designed and planted the front entrance of CareCenter for the past four years. We also arrange the patio planters and undertake several other creative garden projects that welcome patients and their loved ones to JourneyCare.

We are a team that tries to make things beautiful with plants. As members of The Garden Club of Barrington, all of us bring different strengths and contributions to our work at the CareCenter. Some of us are really good at design, others are skilled at finding donations, some are very knowledgeable about plants — and we all like to dig in the dirt. We also all have experience interacting with JourneyCare patients and enjoy visiting with families who stop by when we are working. Gardening seems to be a great connection for visitors to share stories about their loved ones.  

Recently I was set to work on the front entrance. While heading up the drive I noticed a woman who was walking like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was carrying a "patient's belongings" bag and heading to her car. I sent some silent best wishes to her as she slowly walked away.

As I was setting about my work, I kept a close eye on a female mallard duck that had built its nest in our garden. I greeted people as they walked past and continued my weeding and pruning. As I got closer to the duck's nest, I spoke to it, telling her that she was safe and I wasn't going to hurt her nest. I was making cooing noises that would calm her, similar to those I use with babies. 

As I completed my work and congratulated my duck friend on not freaking out and leaving her nest, I realized I was not alone. The woman who I had seen earlier was sitting on the bench by the front door. I admit I was a bit embarrassed to be caught talking to a duck! As I was starting to explain that there was a well-camouflaged duck in the bushes, she waved her hand and asked if I could help her with her shoes. She had gone walking and they were caked with limestone and mud. 

Happy to help, I cleaned up her shoes, assisted with putting them back on, and gave her a hand getting to her feet. She was holding my arm and had a smile on her face. She said, "You will never know how much you helped me." Then she walked in the doors. 

These types of chance encounters happen with all of us hospice garden volunteers. We believe that some people are called to nature to help heal, and this is why we love to work in the garden. It's another way JourneyCare supports the patients and families in our care.

A special thank you for growing with us!

We volunteer gardeners are always on the lookout to find good deals and donations. The Little Garden Club of Barrington has sponsored the cost of one of our planters for the last four years. With a local grant and a donation from a nursery, we were able to plant a butterfly garden, behind the large gazebo at the Barrington CareCenter. Over the years we have been involved in many projects with a lot of different partners. 

This autumn we decided to change our fall motif and use a new plant vendor. We chose We Grow Dreams, a nonprofit nursery that was the brain-child of a small group of Naperville parents who recognized the need to provide job training and employment opportunities to people with disabilities. We Grow Dreams Garden and Greenhouse Center in West Chicago offers a large variety of tasks for its staff to learn and master. Executive Director Gregg Bettcher delivered beautiful plants to us and his commitment and pride in the organization is inspiring. We are happy to have another partner that supports those in need!

Become a JourneyCare volunteer! Learn about our many volunteer opportunities on our website.

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