Fayette Senior Services Hosts Garden Party
It was my pleasure on Friday, June 15, to attend a morning garden party hosted by Fayette Senior Services to thank volunteers, sponsors and everyone involved in the care and creation of the lovely space. From the moment you step through the gates, you sense the dedication of the hearts and hands that have worked so diligently through this past year to make this garden grow.
I was greeted by sunflowers, snapdragons, daisies and congenial volunteer gardeners, including Tom Peck, who helped build the garden and proved to be a perfect ambassador and tour guide. Tom guided me past lush beds of tomatoes, squash and eggplant while he talked about the financing of the gardens by sponsorship and the purchase of bricks.
The garden is not just a place of peaceful beauty. It is also a functioning garden, providing vegetables and herbs used by Senior Services Executive Chef Donnie Wuerl in the center’s award-winning Ultimate Cafe. Additional produce is shared with Meals on Wheels.
Tom explained that the built-up beds were designed to allow seniors to work in the garden with ease. However, I was quick to learn that all ages had a hand in creating this tranquil space. Scouts (both girls and boys) have volunteered as well as an enthusiastic young volunteer, Harrison Gibbs, who was busy greeting his fellow volunteers, snapping pictures and running errands to help set up the party. He stopped long enough to greet Tom and proudly shake my hand.
Others were setting up lemonade stands, beautiful hand-made sugar cookies in garden shapes, muffins and a cake decorated with live flowers for the festive occasion. Tom proudly poked through the trailing vines to show off his baby cantaloupes and watermelons but was quick to introduce and give credit for the care and knowledge of the flowers to fellow volunteers Brenda Goins, Ann Huddleston and Justine Wallace. It was delightful to see sponsors and volunteers meet for the first time, tied together by their love and dedication to a particular spot in the garden.
New and tucked in the back corner of the garden is Faye Sharp’s delightful garden art. The 75-year-young, self-described “antique blonde,” was delighted to talk about her creation but quick to tell me it was an unfinished project.
“It’s not done yet,” she grinned, “I still have to add the water feature for the birds.” Despite a broken wrist, Ms. Sharp has spent the last three months creating a space filled with lush green plants surrounding by small figurines and detailed handmade houses.
“You are never quite finished,” she said. “You do a spot, enjoy it for a while and then you work on it a bit more.”
Ms. Sharp’s refers to the first art garden she developed at her home in Fayetteville as “my memory garden” “because it makes me think of my childhood.” As she talks about the garden, she reminisces about growing up in Fort Payne, Ala., and moving to Fayette County in 1954.
“We grew up with hand me downs and learning to share – it was tough but I wouldn’t have it another way.”
And she continues to share by lovingly piecing together the little village in the garden taking great pleasure in the enjoyment it brings to others. Her father, among other professions, was a rock mason and at 17 she was driving log trucks and mixing mortar with him. Perhaps this is where she learned the skills to build the dainty garden houses complete with front porches, shingled and tin roofs and stone chimneys.
I asked if she built the houses herself and she looked at me with soulful eyes and told me about Tom, her late husband of 51 years, who had helped her build the original houses.
“There is a lot of grieving and loneliness that comes with loss, but Tom left me with a comfortable home and children to love. You learn to live with what is left.”
Her son encouraged her to go out and do things, but her quick and witty response to him was, “I don’t know where to go and what to do anymore, so I am going to be a telemarketer, that way with every call I make, people can tell me where to go and what to do.”
She gave me a giggle and quick smile before directing attention back to her garden and telling me about shopping at thrift shops and flea markets in search of her figurines. You can tell that these villages she creates are a gift of love to the people who visit them as well as a gift to herself. Gardening is therapy for her. It keeps her young and in good humor. She proudly told me about recently completing the Old Courthouse 5k in 53 minutes.
“Oh Lord Honey, I am not done yet,” she said with a sparkle in her eye. “It is a fun garden, I want it bring humor to people.”
Dan Gibbs, Operations Director of the Senior Center and Garden project manager, proudly showed the plans for the new gazebo set to sit in the center of the garden.
“Thanks to generous donations, as with everything in the garden, the projects end up bigger, nicer and better than originally planned,” Dan said.
He continued to thank the many volunteers and explained that people were in the garden daily tending and enjoying the space.
“This is a great team effort,” Dan said. “It has taken a lot of people with heart, funding and time. It will continue to be enjoyed for years to come and is a never ending gift. It could not be done without the people who come out everyday to work just a little or a lot.”
The garden, with an estimated value of around $100,000, has been built by donations and the work of volunteers. Dan also thanked Fayette County for sponsoring the garden through the year.
“This is a community built garden that started as a field of weeds,” Debbie Britt, President and CEO of Fayette Senior Services, said. “It has become the jewel in the crown of Fayette County”
The garden along with it’s delightful group of daily volunteers truly are jewels.
Visitors are welcome. The garden is located next to the Life Enrichment Center (Fayette Senior Center) at 4 Center Drive, Fayetteville, Ga. The Fayette Senior Center is a member base program for citizens 50+ years of age.
For information on making a donation or for membership visit the website www.fayss.org or call 770-461-0813. Donations to Fayette Senior Services, Inc. are tax deductible.
To view a photo album of pictures from the garden visit www.facebook.com/fayettewoman and browse for the Garden Party Photo Album.