Madison Heights OPTIONS day support center is surrounded by beautiful landscaping filled with trees, flowers, and out back, an expansive garden. Monday mornings, the Hill City Master Gardener Association members are on the property by 9 a.m., weeding and tilling before the heat and bugs creep up on them, and by 10 a.m., four or five OPTIONS participants come out to join their work.
The relationship between the Master Gardeners and OPTIONS began in 2010 when Master Gardener Kay Taylor spent some time volunteering at the center. Kay and her daughter, a former DePaul employee, agreed that the property should have plants for the participants to enjoy. And enjoy they do: While everyone is welcome to garden, a few participants return weekly to check on their handiwork or, like participant Cindy, to pick flowers for their loved ones.
“I love the participants and love seeing them get excited about everything, be it a worm in the ground or the way they plant a bud with such gentleness.” -Kay Taylor
The garden sprouted from leftover plants from the Master Gardeners’ annual sale, generous donations from Wipledale Greenhouses, and a few plants from Kay’s own garden. Volunteers plow and replant the flourishing garden each year, supported by an annual budget for supplies and fencing. “Whether it’s cooking with freshly picked
ingredients, or sending people home with vegetables or flowers, there is a huge correlation with the garden to everything we do here at OPTIONS,” said Madison Heights OPTIONS Coordinator Joe Girandola. “I couldn’t begin to know about gardening—the Master Gardeners are experts and love sharing their knowledge with our participants.”
The Master Gardeners have passed down their expertise to the participants: The garden is fully equipped with a turn-able compost unit, a worm bin to create worm compost, rain barrels that catch water from the gutters, and an irrigation system with a timer unit that was donated by a master gardener. The fenced-in vegetable garden is laden with tomatoes, beans, potatoes, and cucumbers and is surrounded by a tree garden, a butterfly bush garden, a sun garden, a wildflower garden, and a flower garden. “Volunteering at OPTIONS has been so rewarding,” said Kay. “I love the participants and love seeing them get excited about everything, be it a worm in the ground or the way they plant a bud with such gentleness.”
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