The following article appears in the fall 2017 issue of The Heart of Regina Health Center newsletter.
On a beautiful June day, like so many other days, Laverne Bishof can be found weeding and pruning the flowerbeds around Regina Health Center (RHC) and making the Madonna Garden the beautiful centerpiece it was intended to be. Laverne has been tending to the gardens at RHC for 19 years. It’s clear from the moment someone pulls into the long drive at RHC how special a place it is. Continuing down the drive reveals the picturesque grounds and gardens, so much attributed to the loving hands of Laverne.
Laverne is quick to point out that she cannot take all of the credit, acknowledging Sister Pat McHale, CSJ, RHC’s first activity director and a horticultural therapist, for overseeing the planning and design of the Madonna Garden in 1998. With funding from many friends and foundations, the garden was constructed in stages under her watchful direction. She chose traditional varieties of flowers and bushes to appeal to the residents who may have grown up with the plants to make them feel more at home. Laverne said, “Sister Pat taught me many things about gardening.”
A Sensory Experience
“The garden allowed for a sensory experience through touch, smell, sight and even the sounds of beautiful grasses that swished in the wind,” said Sr. Pat. Residents were also able to plant vegetables, which they still plant each year and celebrate with a tasting during harvest.
While many plants and flowers have been replaced with newer varieties, Sr. Pat said the garden has remained timeless with the dedicated work of Laverne. “She has kept up with the tedious demands that Mother Nature has thrown her way.” To that, Laverne humbly replied, “I do what I can to keep things looking alive and fresh.” Laverne also attributes the heavy lifting to volunteer Jim Rosinsky, who regularly helps keep the larger bushes trimmed.
Laverne became involved at RHC when she retired. “I did not see myself sitting around the house,” she said.
She saw an ad in the church bulletin asking for volunteers. The next week, she met with Sister Patricia Gardener, CSA, to begin her volunteer work. She started on the resident floors, helping where needed. She said she enjoyed the work, but also had an interest in the gardens. She began working with Sister M. Justine Sendelbach, CSA, who had a passion for the gardens and the outdoors. The primary garden, now known as the Madonna Garden, did not have a name at the time. Since a prominent statue in the garden was named Madonna of the Streets, RHC residents chose the Madonna Garden name.
Laverne said the therapeutic vision of the garden still exists with its peace and calm. As an example, she noticed a resident priest who rarely left his room and she asked if he would like to visit the garden. “He was so thrilled and knew a lot about the different plants and trees,” she said. He and Laverne ended up becoming good friends.
Laverne continues to help residents in the nursing home, making sure they get to hair and beauty appointments, Mass and other areas of the building. She also serves as Sacristan for the RHC chapel. “Without wonderful volunteers like Laverne who puts her heart into her work, we would be hard pressed to keep up with the aesthetic qualities that make Regina Health Center so special,” said Mark Yantek, RHC executive director.
Lubrizol Employees Help Gardens Shine
The Madonna Garden also received a nice boost from the Lubrizol Corporation, with a team of employees visiting RHC in June with rakes, power washers and paintbrushes to assist in and around the grounds. It was the sixth year in a row Lubrizol employees came to RHC as part of the company’s Building Bonds employee volunteer program. A number of volunteers pulled old plants and flowers and replaced them with new, colorful varieties in the Madonna Garden. Others helped by visiting residents, assisting with transport, painting walls, cutting down dying trees and more.
“It is unbelievable how great the building and grounds look after our Lubrizol friends leave,” said Mark. “Building Bonds is a wonderful program and we are so grateful to get this kind of generous support from a local company. We are able to preserve more assets to directly serve our residents by receiving this generous gift of time, talent and treasure from Lubrizol employees.”
The Master Gardeners of Summit County is another group that helps keep the RHC grounds and gardens glowing through many hours of volunteer work. They work with resident members of the RHC Garden Club monthly. Projects vary and this year the lineup has included sensory gardening, plantings, flower arranging, flower art projects, garden talks, pickle making and holiday celebrations.