March is set aside as Intellectual and Developmental Disability Month. Evergreen Elm will meet later this month with the McKean County Commissioners who will read the official proclamation designating the recognition of Intellectual and Developmental Disability Day for McKean County.
Evergreen Elm has made it their mission to provide quality living arrangements and life programs for mentally challenged and intellectually disabled adults in McKean and surrounding counties; with programs aimed to support individuals in achieving greater independence, choice and opportunities in their lives, through continued improvements to an effective system of accessible services and supports that are flexible, innovative and person-centered.
One way that Evergreen Elm incorporates innovative and person-centered living is by keeping a garden. Not just any garden, but their most prized possession. The Evergreen Elm garden has been a magical place for many of the staff and residents for over 30 years.
The excitement hits at about this time each year to start the gardening season. Kacy Huston, the garden’s new Master gardener, has worked to get to know the individuals that we support in the garden program.
“Kacy will be the perfect fit for us. She appreciates the hard work and dedication that Larry put in and she has great ideas for the future,” said Brandi Buck, CEO of Evergreen Elm.
She also has some fun fresh ideas.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time out in the garden with such a great group of people. We get to learn about and experiment with new fruits and veggies together,” Huston said.
Stephanie Tyger experienced her first year working in the garden with Kacy this past season. Tyger said, “My favorite part about gardening was planting the strawberries and going to the fair.” When asked if she knew she was such a good gardener Tyger exclaimed, “ no, I had no idea!” Tyger said that she felt happy after working in the garden.
This is a great example of people living everyday lives; part of the world around them.
“Finding hobbies that make us happy, being proud of the things we do.It is what it is all about.” Buck said.
This year, with the help of an ARPA grant through the McKean County Community Foundation and the McKean County Commissioners, revitalization of the garden is on the agenda. Through the years, Evergreen Elm absorbed the cost of the garden because the benefits of gardening were so great.
The implementation of a Horticulture Therapy program was approved by the Evergreen Elm board in 1990. The late Master Gardener Larry Rotheraine worked side by side with the individual gardeners for over 30 years.
Individuals have entered their vegetables in the McKean County Fair contests and often brought home first place ribbons. The vegetables were special; not only were they grown and nurtured with love and patience, but they are chemical free.
In 1987, then President Ronal Reagan, issued a public proclamation that urged all Americans to provide “the encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential” to those with developmental disabilities.