Lions let loose in the garden

La Plata club gives planting boxes to nursing center

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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Virginia Stone, a resident of the Charles County Nursing and rehabilitation Center in La Plata plants a flower Friday, in the new flower box the La Plata Lions club built and donated to the center. Edith Washington, activities assistant, looks on.

When Ed McKenzie, a seven-year veteran of the La Plata Lions Club, visited a friend and former La Plata Lion Ken Daly in Indiana the two went sightseeing.

Daly took McKenzie to check out an "Enabling Garden" at a local nursing home that he and some friends built.

Made of lined, dirt-filled boxes that enable gardeners who use wheelchairs easier access to planting and tending flowers and vegetables, the project would be a perfect one for the La Plata Lions to take on, McKenzie recalled thinking.

With the help of fellow Lion Mike Merritt, the club contacted the Charles County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in La Plata.

"This is such a wonderful gift," Cynthia E. Parker, vice president of marketing at the center, said at the May 20 unveiling of the garden in the center's courtyard. "There is a culture change going on [in the nursing home business]. We're moving away from the medical, cold setting to a home-like setting."

And a garden — whether it is a flower or vegetable garden — is one thing that many homes have, Parker said.

The two 12-foot-by-4-foot boxes were constructed by Merrick's son, John, who builds sets for the Port Tobacco Players. Made from white cedar, which is sturdy and doesn't rot, the boxes cost about $800 each, McKenzie said.

Then, the group had to fill them with dirt. Lions donated bags of top soil, but it would hardly make a dent, McKenzie said.

Bobby Cooper, owner of Marie's Diner in La Plata where the La Plata Lions meet, donated 13 yards of topsoil for the project.

Some residents spent Friday morning digging in.

Virginia Stone, who grew up in Anacostia in Southeast Washington, D.C., and spent a lot of her youth in her family's Ridge Street flower garden, planted salvia and marigolds with the help of Edith Washington, activities assistant at the nursing home.

"This is right down my alley," Stone said. "Gosh, I haven't done this in so long. I love it."

The Lions Club — there is a La Plata club, one in Waldorf and another in Accokeek — puts most of its emphasis on vision, said Carolyn Rodgers, a member since 1999. The La Plata Lions focus on La Plata, Nanjemoy and White Plains.

If a community member needs eye exams or glasses and doesn't have the means to get them, the Lions help out.

They also go into schools to do screenings on preschool children for lazy eye. If a child needs an eye exam or glasses and his parents are unable to afford the expense, the club will do what it can to help.

But the group participates in other community projects, like the Enabling Garden. It's a project that the club hopes to bring to The Maples, a senior living facility in La Plata, McKenzie said.