Garden project helps disabled adults blossom

Published 4:05 pm Saturday, June 5, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- By providing a garden for the consumers of Hope Network South, a group of volunteers are helping the developmentally disabled adults to grow right along with the vegetables and flowers of the garden.
Volunteers from Luvability Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to communicating the love of God to people with disabilities, have been spending time with Hope Network South consumers for seven years now.
The involvement of Luvability Ministries began primarily with Bible studies and has now also developed into a social outlet for the adults.
Every Thursday evening the volunteers come to spend time with the developmentally disabled adults by holding Bible studies, having discussions about their lives and working in the garden.
The garden project began last year in a small plot of land at the Berrien Woods Apartments, where many of the Hope Network consumers reside in the tax credit housing provided by the apartments, located at 1900 E. Main St. in Niles.
He said many of the adults spend their entire lives having other people do things for them and working with the garden is one task that they can handle on their own.
Luvability volunteer Karen Samuels, who was one of the people behind the idea for the garden, said it works in well with their lessons of spirituality.
She said the biggest benefit of having their gatherings at the garden every week is the sense of community that it creates and the fact that it brings everyone together.
The consumers are especially helpful during the harvesting of the garden, which includes vegetables like cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Each of the adults take home some of the harvest and share the excess vegetables with their friends.
Todd Miller, a program director for Hope Network South, is pleased to have such a quality group of volunteers to work with the consumers on a regular basis.
Miller is also pleased with Hope Network South's relationship with Berrien Woods, who allowed them to use their land to begin the garden project.
Mary Merritt, a leasing agent with Berrien Woods, was happy to provide space for the consumers to start a garden.
Merritt said having the garden has been a rewarding experience for the consumers that provides them with a feeling of fulfillment.