“We wanted to share our love with gardening so that we could teach them…don’t give up,” shares Ashley Ramirez. She is one-half of the self-proclaimed “gardening nerds” that helped establish The Healing Garden. This garden is a Compass in the Community project based in Los Angeles.
Ashley Ramirez is the Assistant Director of Operations at Los Angeles General Medical Center for Morrison Healthcare, and Maryann Valbuena is the Support Service Coordinator in the Kruesopon region. The two created a bond over their shared love for gardening and wanted to bring this passion to their community.
They decided together that Exodus Recovery’s Safe Landing facility, which offers transitional housing for currently unhoused people, would be the perfect place for such a project.
“It’s a place where they can bring their dogs. They have a small room. It coaches them with the life skills that they need. We thought this would be great for that particular population because gardening teaches you so much perseverance,” shared the duo.
The pair believed that a garden for these residents would be a perfect way to help reinforce skills of resilience, effort, and learning from mistakes.
“If you nurture, stick with it, build your soil or your base, which is also a metaphor for your life, and learn from your mistakes you will see your efforts come to fruition,” said Ashley.
They built a team of volunteers made up of Compass One Healthcare (the joint company who provides services to the hospital – Morrison Healthcare provides foodservice, and Crothall Healthcare provides support services) associates, and Safe Landing staff and residents to pull the project together. The team built raised beds with drip irrigation systems where they planted herbs, salad greens, seasonal vegetables such as broccoli, Asian greens, cabbage, and kale, root vegetables like beets and carrots as well as native flowers.
The project has also expanded in new ways. There is now a Garden Club in place to help maintain the plants and a Healthy Eating Club to discuss how to prepare the foods that were grown in the garden.
With the success of the Healing Garden, Ashley and Maryann encourage other Compass One Healthcare teams to consider what a project like this could do for their own community.
“We don’t want to talk about the technicality of gardening but rather the benefits of gardening and what it can do for our mental health and how we can build a collaboration with other areas in the hospital and our clients,” said Maryann.
Gardening has been known to help reduce stress, improve heart health, help boost Vitamin D from being in the sun and increase over-all wellbeing.