Gardens Help Create Community, Home at UCC’s Fairhaven Senior Services

Hans Hahn, coordinator of Prairie Village garden, and Prairie Village resident Judith Moldenhauer hard at work.

New residents in senior communities often can feel a sense of losing the personal touches in their previous homes. Residents of Fairhaven Senior Services in Whitewater, Wis., helped solve part of this dilemma by bringing their gardens with them.

“The Gardens at Fairhaven go back to its beginning in the early 1960s,” says Paul Kuenning, president and CEO. “Residents moving in from home carried with them the need, talent and skill to continue gardening. Following their interest, they began with small garden areas around their windows for small flower gardens.”

That interest grew the gardens. Soon a rose garden popped up, and the project expanded from there. Today at Fairhaven, says Kuenning, residents still have window gardens filled with container plants. There also are two gardens for those with limited access, a formal vegetable garden, a memorial garden, and a natural garden area.

“Residents continue to raise funds for our annual plants at the front entrance of each building. Funds are also raised for replacement trees … and the Friends of Fairhaven support the cost of hanging baskets on each of our light poles,” Kuenning says. The staff and residents put the baskets together.

Each year, residents sign up for plots in the raised gardens, creating a mix of veteran and first-time gardeners. This year, one section was dedicated to rhubarb plants. Other residents volunteer to do weeding and fall clean up.

Fairhaven resident and gardener Gladys Ellerman with some of this year’s bounty.

“Maintenance tills the garden in the spring and fall,” writes Fairhaven resident Gladys Ellerman. “They provide grass clipping and leaves when requested. The gardeners help each other out from time to time.”

Fairhaven currently is expanding its second community, Prairie Village, also in Whitewater. Currently, Prairie Village residents and staff are working to find the best soil mix for their new quarter-acre garden, which will sport a tool shed when completed. “In 2018, the new garden boasts 11 active gardeners,” write Prairie Village residents Hans and Carla Hahn.

As one would expect, the vegetable harvest differs each year, depending on the weather, says Kuenning. “The harvest this year was limited due to too much water, but nonetheless, was bountiful.”

The fruits of the residents’ labor often are shared by the entire community. Residents leave their extra vegetables on a table in the lobby, which others may take for a freewill donation. Some gardeners share their produce in bags placed on neighbors’ doors. The bags are passed around until everything is claimed. Additionally, tomatoes, sweet corn and zucchini regularly find their way onto the dining room menu.

But one of the best parts of the gardens, says Kuenning, are the social opportunities they provide. “Resident help residents, each offering suggestions and opinions on what is best,” he says. “Some do the labor, while others do the harvest.”

Whether in the beautiful colors of the flowers and trees across the community or the shared bounty of the harvest, the Gardens at Fairhaven and Praire Village help residents know their neighbors and feel peacefully at home.

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