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Seniors dig into summer: Gardening partnership provides community building experience

Being outside, hands in the earth, recalling memories of farming in their youth, residents at Allen Manor have the opportunity to dig in the dirt this summer.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Residents at a Grand Rapids senior housing facility will be able to soak up the sun and get their hands in the dirt. 

This spring, 10 residents signed up for a first-of-its-kind program to build, plant, and maintain raised beds that house greens, a variety of peppers, beans, and strawberries.

Samaritas’ Allen Manor, an Affordable Living senior housing facility in Grand Rapids, launched the project with Bates Place, a local nonprofit striving to cultivate a sense of community in the Bates and Henry area of Grand Rapids. 

The fruits and vegetables grown in the raised beds and gardens will be harvested and enjoyed by residents in a farm-to-table experience.

Community retailers and volunteers are collaborating to facilitate the project. Donations included lumber and wood from Zeeland Lumber, soil from Birchtree Landscape, and trees, flowers, and gardening supplies and tools from Lowes. Along with the raised beds, Allen Manor created an additional garden space for all to enjoy complete with tomatoes, squash and an apple tree.  

Residents are thrilled with the gardens, and Allen Manor is looking forward to expanding the project in the future.

“Their faces light up when they work outside and see the raised beds,” explains Kimberly Sleet, Senior Manager, Allen Manor. “It also provided a wonderful opportunity for Allen Manor residents to engage with local community members and volunteers.”

“It’s important that residents get to tell their stories,” says Sleet. “We all must recognize that every life has purpose and meaning.”

Allen Manor staff hope to coordinate with Bates Place for a summer reception honoring garden volunteers and sponsors. Plans are in the works for a farm-to-table potluck for residents and community members later this summer. 

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