Apr 4, 2023 | Community and Partnerships, Faces of HDGH
As Earth Day approaches one starts thinking more about the environment and what they might be doing to sustain it or how they are contributing to making it better. I, myself, reflect on my own practices of recycling and conserving energy at home through all the new gidgets and gadgets available to home owners to be more energy conscious.
I also think of my little outdoor garden where I grow some of my own chemical-free produce - oh the joy I get when picking fresh veggies from my garden. Growing a garden allows a person to not only feel the pride and joy from picking produce you grow, but it allows a person to really connect with the earth through cultivating the soil, planting the seeds or seedlings and regularly watering the soil and plants. It has been proven that gardening is good for the soul and your mental health, which is why, when we were offered a generous donation of a greenhouse for the Regional Children’s Centre (RCC) from the Rotary Club of Windsor-St. Clair, we jumped at the incredible opportunity.
In 2018 when the greenhouse was built, the next step was finding the perfect person to get the greenhouse up and running. We were directed to a retired teacher from Villanova High school, Andy Paling. Andy agreed to volunteer to come in and help us start up the greenhouse. He knew exactly what it would take to get us up and running. He wasted no time, and before we knew it we had tables, pots, dirt and most importantly seeds and seedlings. Now that the greenhouse was stocked with supplies we talked with Andy about having the children in the Intensive Treatment Services Program help out in the greenhouse. Andy, being a teacher at heart, jumped at the opportunity to have children in the greenhouse and has devoted countless hours of his own time in creating lessons and projects for the children.
Throughout the years that Andy has been volunteering, our clients have been provided with so many opportunities to connect with the earth and to feel the joy from growing their own produce and plants. The children have planted a year-round tomato and strawberry crop, individual herb gardens and created an additional outdoor vegetable garden behind the greenhouse. They grew oak seedlings from acorns and harvested spider plants. Andy also taught the children about hydroponics and had them grow lettuce from a self-made hydroponics system which used a recycled watering system.
Andy even taught them about insects and brought in a live praying mantis nest and ladybug eggs and larva to teach children about controlling pests without pesticides. He also had the children plant a butterfly garden (from plants they grew) and taught them about the importance of pollinating insects in our environment.
Through his resourcefulness, Andy found a local environmental group that agreed to donate White Pine Seedlings to our greenhouse and used them to teach the children about the importance of replenishing the greenspaces in our community. He gifted each of the children a seedling and encouraged them to take them home, plant them, tend to them and watch them grow. Andy is continually looking for ways to enhance our greenhouse and in turn, enhance a child’s experience and joy when they are at the greenhouse.
Projects that Andy has been working on lately with the children is reusing pallets to create planters out to expand our outdoor garden. He will also be working with the children on growing hanging baskets to bring home to that special someone on Mother’s Day. There will also be an art wall created so that the children have a space to display art projects they will be working on.
The greenhouse truly has become a beautiful and welcoming space for the children in the Intensive Treatment Services Program to grow and flourish just like the plants in the greenhouse. Each week they eagerly look forward to their special time with Andy and seeing how their plants are doing. I have heard kids say, “I love when I get to plant flowers”, “I love doing lots of things in Mr. Andy’s class” and “I planted stuff at the greenhouse and I can actually eat it”! It is evident by the smiles on the faces of the children and even the staff leaving the greenhouse that their time in the greenhouse was precious and nourishing for their soul. We are truly blessed to have a person as kind, compassionate and environmentally conscious as Andy and we are thankful to him for bringing our greenhouse to life.
In addition to Earth Day in April, we’re celebrating National Volunteer Appreciation Week April 16-22, 2023. Our volunteers of diverse cultures, ages, abilities and experiences give that extra warmth and love while supporting the personal dignity, safety, security and quality care in our hospital. We celebrate their kindness, generosity and commitment our volunteers offer that weave our lives together. Thank you to Andy, and to all our HDGH volunteers for giving of your time, talent and energy.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer at HDGH, please email us at email@example.com or call 519-257-5111 extension 73345. For more information on volunteering and academic placements, please visit our website at www.hdgh.org/volunteers.
Andrea is a Coordinator with the Intensive Treatment Services Program at Regional Children’s Centre. She has worked at RCC for over 22 years as a Child and Youth Worker and now as leadership. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, walking the trails behind her house and spending time with her children and all of her many pets.
General Info: (519) 257-5111
1453 Prince Rd.
Windsor, ON N9C 3Z4
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