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Pine Acres growing handicapped accessible garden

Published: Friday, June 20, 2014 11:46 p.m. CDT
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Velma Estes (left), 86, of DeKalb and Margret O'Bryan (right), 89, of Lyndon, Illinois, pull some lettuce from the new wheelchair accessible planter box June 13 at Pine Acres Rehab & Living Center in DeKalb. Estes owned and operated a floral shop for 40 years in Colorado and the activities coordinator said once she got her hands back in the soil she perked up.
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
On June 13, Charles Prather, 74, of Rochelle, waters the newly planted wheelchair accessible garden planted at Pine Acres Rehab & Living Center in DeKalb by the DeKalb County Coummunity Gardens group. Prather waters the raised bed twice every day.

DeKALB – Margret O’Bryan doesn’t consider herself a great gardener, but she considers herself her mother’s daughter because of her love of flowers.

“She could stick a matchstick in the ground and make it grow,” O’Bryan, 89, said of her mother. “My mom had a green thumb.”

O’Bryan lives at Pine Acres Rehab & Living Center, 1212 S. Second St., where DeKalb County Community Gardens volunteers recently installed a garden. The community gardens group is a local nonprofit organization that grows produce to donate to local food pantries. The group also works in partnership with retirement homes, schools and more.

Dan Kenney, Community Gardens’ founder, said it’s part of the group’s mission to make gardening and fresh produce available to everyone. The garden at Pine Acres is handicapped-accessible, as it sits up on legs like a table. Kenney said a volunteer with the organization designed the table, and they plan to install a similar one at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center, 2944 Greenwood Acres Drive. Kenney said Barb City Manor, 680 Haish Blvd., is interested in installing one next year.

O’Bryan said she’s stuck a shovel in the garden once or twice, but the garden really helps her think of her mother, who would send her to the market to get flowers to plant.

“The garden makes me think of her a lot,” O’Bryan said. “She tried to teach me some tricks, but she realized I was [little help in the garden.]”

Kay Coover, activity director at Pine Acres, said the garden helps some residents who have dementia because it brings back memories for them.

“It’s a magical gift,” Coover said of the garden. “It gives them something to do, even when their family comes to visit, because it gives them something to talk about.” 

She said some residents’ eyes light up when they look at the garden, which can be viewed from the dining room of Pine Acres.

Resident Charles Prather, 74, also thinks of his childhood when he works in the garden. He said he waters the flowers, tomatoes and watermelon twice a day, right at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. He used to help his mother plant and water a garden at his childhood home in Arkansas.

“I like watching the vegetables grow,” Prather said. “It brings back memories.”

Coover said the residents like to monitor some of the employees who tend to the garden to make sure the “youngsters” are doing it right.

“They’re really teaching me,” Coover said.

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