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Volunteers grow fresh ideas

Jason Werling • Feb 18, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Many growers cringe at the sight of one dead plant in a bountiful garden. Imagine how blue they must have felt when an entire greenhouse closed down for four years. Around 2009, mainly to save money, state officials closed the Ohio Veterans Home’s on-site greenhouse. 

In 2013, however, several determined volunteers teamed up and cultivated ideas to revive it. “We wanted to utilize an existing facility and find a purpose for it rather than let it sit idle,” volunteer and project organizer David Bell said.    

Want to join or donate?

Any Ohio Veterans Home resident can volunteer at the greenhouse. Volunteers are also seeking financial support.

To join or to donate call 419-625-2454 Ext. 1216 or email kimberly.lewallen@dvs.ohio.gov or David Bell at davidbell216@bex.net  

Bell, a BGSU Firelands undergraduate student studying human services and social work, developed a pilot project based on revitalizing the Ohio Veterans Home greenhouse. A year ago, home officials agreed to his volunteerbased proposal and opened the greenhouse.

At a glance: Ohio Veterans Home greenhouse resurgence

•Area volunteers resurrected the greenhouse in 2013 after the facility shut down in 2009 as a result of budget cuts.

•Volunteers aim to ramp up greenhouse activities this year by making the facility and related resources more available to them.

•Residents will cultivate vegetables — lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and more — for meal preparation at Ohio Veterans Home eating centers. They’ll also learn about plants and grow flower gardens around the grounds.

The cost-conscious plan is built on two primary goals:

Producing produce

In the past, home officials strictly treated the greenhouse as a planting depot. When spring arrived, workers would pluck plants from the greenhouse and place them around the grounds.

But volunteers wanted to add a new purpose to the greenhouse, which will roll out later this year.

“We want to integrate the greenhouse for culinary purposes and continue to use the greenhouse for outside planting and for landscaping purposes,” Bell said.

Bell, a student member of the American Horticultural Therapy Association, added kitchen staff workers will mix in greenhouse-grown plants — including lettuce, tomatoes and peppers — when preparing meals for residents.

“Our goal is to have an operation that will constantly produce vegetables for the kitchen,” Bell said.

Recruiting vets

Volunteers, along with home residents, plan to grow these vegetables and other plants together.

“We want the residents to have access to the greenhouse, and we want this to be about outreach and education,” area Master Gardener Genevieve Everett said. “We want to bring the education aspect to   residents so they can learn about gardening and growing”

Bell, Master Gardeners and Erie County-based Ohio State University Extension employees arranged for some easy, hands-on lessons this year for any Ohio Veteran Home resident or other volunteer seeking to work in the greenhouse. Volunteers have been working several days in the greenhouse already this year.

Residents can create their own gardening plan as well, so long as it jibes with the ultimate mission of promoting an active, healthy and fun lifestyle.

“It’s therapeutic, being in a green environment,” Bell said. “You are out caring for the plants and planting seeds. The residents can do something and get a change of venue from a day area into a working environment that will enhance them physically, mentally and emotionally”

Through private donations, all materials and plants needed will come free of charge for home residents and volunteers, Bell said. Ohio Veterans Home officials will only fund utility costs.

“This is an opportunity for volunteers to come in and for residents to come together and share time together while doing something productive. It becomes a little community,” said Dwayne Henson, the Ohio Veterans Home’s volunteer coordinator.

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