Volunteers—young and old—have been nailing together boards, wiring water systems and buying seeds for the new enclosed garden at the Dresslerville Elder Center specially built for Washoe Tribe elders.
“The seniors have told me that they love to garden but it’s hard to bend down and kneel,” Joni Box, community resource coordinator, said.
Materials for the enclosed garden were made possible by a federal Elder Abuse Prevention grant, said Sharon Doan, elder center executive director.
“It’s very beneficial for elders to be able to garden,” she said. “We’ll use them in the program (for lunches) and any extra vegetables will be given to elders to take home.”
Doan said that elder Flora Smokey got so excited that she donated some vegetable seeds.
Other Washoe elders have volunteered their time wiring electrical systems for lighting and a water timing system.
“(Steven James) really sparked up when he heard we needed help with electricity,” said volunteer and carpenter, Benny Fillmore. “He’s a real treasure.”
James is a retired electrician who has been volunteering his time along with his sons, Brad and Edmund, who are both journeymen electricians.
“I’m excited,” James said. “I want to see it grow.”
While James and his sons have been working on the electric, Fillmore and his son, Hale, 17, have been building planter boxes and the enclosure structure for the garden.
“My son’s a part of the Washoe club at the high school and he’s been coming over after school with five or six kids to put boxes together,” Fillmore said.
The boxes are 2-feet high and 3-feet wide along the edges of the structure with 4-by-4-foot boxes in the center of the garden, Box said. The entire garden will be enclosed with chicken wire to keep quail and rabbits out.
“The aisles in the garden will all be at least three feet wide for walkers and wheel chairs to get through,” Box said.
Fillmore designed the garden after he learned the elder center had received a grant for one.
“Benny was a lifesaver,” Box said. “I had an image in my head but couldn’t get it out. He knew what materials we would need and how to set it up.”
Fillmore also went to Box and elder center staff to talk about building a greenhouse which will be started later in the year.
Volunteers and Washoe Tribe staff think that the garden will be therapeutic and healthy for elders and the community.
“We’ll have non-GMO and organic vegetables,” Fillmore said. “Hopefully this will be a healthy start here and spread to the rest of the community.”
He wants the garden idea to spread throughout the Dresslerville community so that “we can start combating these issues that we have like diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” he said.
Some seeds and seedlings have already been started in the garden, Box said, but quail and this week’s stormy weather have been hard on the plants.
“We planted some pumpkins from last year’s seeds, and we started seedlings for peppers and summer squash,” she said.
Volunteers were continuing to enclose the garden in chicken wire to keep out animals on Friday.
Elders and students from the Head Start learning program also made stepping stones from cement and decorated them with pebbles and handprints—one from the elder and one from the student.
“I like the rock part,” 4-year-old Tek Tek Enos said. “It’s soft on the back.”
He and his grandmother, Eileen Mazy, made a steppingstone to be placed in the garden when it is complete.
“These stones will be in there forever,” Mazy said.
Progress has been quick for the project which started a month ago, Fillmore said.
“Yesterday this place was overgrown, it looked like a jungle,” he said. “By the time we’re out of here it will be sparkling and full of life.”