By Ben Olson
Have you ever been down to the Healing Garden by Bonner General Health and noticed how beautiful the landscaping looks? Chances are, you are admiring the work of a small handful of dedicated volunteers that have kept this Sandpoint jewel sparkling since its inception twelve years ago.
Now entering its twelfth year, the Healing Garden continues to provide patients, employees and passersby with a place to be at peace with themselves. It’s a place where the weight of the world can feel a touch lighter.
“Our philosophy has been that we started it for the nurses and doctors that didn’t really have anywhere to go,” said Linda Plaster, who has done everything from raising money to sitting on the committee, to pulling weeds at the Healing Garden. “It’s nice for them to have a private place to talk to patients, or if they lose someone. We built it for that reason. That’s why we built the Chapel.”
The Garden provides a serene, comfortable setting for women who are pregnant to walk around waiting for their babies to come, for people who have lost their spouses. People have taken graduation and wedding pictures there.
“People bring out-of-town guests there to show it off,” said Plaster. “People often say ‘We can feel the spirit there.’ It was built for the people who needed it from the committee’s heart and the community’s heart.
Since the beginning, the Healing Garden has always been a community effort, relying on help from a variety of sources. The granite boulders were donated by Dick Villelli and Larry Peak. Lippert’s Heavy Equipment and Johnnie Schell chipped in to help haul the heavy boulders. Bestway Tree Service spent days hauling away piles of debris cleared from the banks of Sand Creek. Manny Finney delivered yards of topsoil. Tom Runa provided landscape design expertise by gathering ideas and conceptualizing them in a formal drawing. Home Depot has donated several thousands of dollars worth of landscaping materials. Keller Williams Realty came in and gave a day of work to the garden. My own mother, Val Olson, while employed with Bonner General, was also instrumental in the development of the Garden.
“I’m so pleased with what the people have done to help us,” said Plaster.
But, of all the assistance the Garden has received, one area that is falling short is volunteer gardeners. Plaster, along with fellow volunteers Mary Ann Jeffres and Sharon Rench-McCormick, have spearheaded the upkeep for many years, and could use a hand.
“It’s non-stop,” said Jeffres. “The upkeep is constant; weeds, watering. We hardly have time to do fun things, changes, to be creative. We are just doing the stuff that’s necessary.”
Jeffres would like to see some new faces volunteering to take some of the workload at the Healing Garden.
“I’m the youngest of our gardening crew and I’m 62,” she said. “It’s time for some young blood.”
According to Jeffres, the ideal scenario they’d prefer is to have people commit to whatever size area they would feel comfortable with, and they would take care of the upkeep in this area.
Jeffres is quick to point out that people don’t necessarily have to be master gardeners to volunteer.
“We would show them how to do it, what we expect,” said Jeffres. “If they can’t be there for any reason, you find someone else to be. That’s the ideal scenario. We need people who are willing to get their fingers dirty.”
But, Plaster is adamant about the fact that the Healing Garden will get by with whatever help they can get from the community.
“We’re not down and out,” said Plaster. “We’re just getting older.”
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