New Albany community donates items for rehab center's garden

NEW ALBANY, Miss. (AP) — Back in March, Niki Treadaway sent letters to businesses and churches asking if they’d be interested in donating items for a resident garden at the New Albany Health and Rehab Center.

“We do a resident counsel session each month, and we’re always open to suggestions,” said Treadaway, the activities director at the center. “After the COVID lockdown, we were just ready to get outside. I’ve been here since 2016, and to my knowledge, we’d never had a garden.”

As if by magic, items began showing up at the center.

“People would come and randomly leave stuff,” Treadaway said. “We’d come out in the morning, and there would be plants, flowers, pots, bags of soil, wind chimes. That’s what’s been so amazing about it.”

Volunteer Chuck Hill built the six raised-garden beds, and Sherwin-Williams donated the stain for them. New Albany businesses like Walton’s Greenhouse, Lowe’s and Glenfield Market offered up soil and plants. Salem United Methodist Church, Moss Hill Baptist Church and Fredonia Baptist Church all donated items like flowers, plants and soil. Friendship United Methodist Church even sent teen volunteers to work in the garden.

Individuals helped, too. Mary Dunahue was instrumental in spearheading the project, and the Stroud and Parker families donated soil and tomatoes.

“We had so much stuff left overnight,” Treadaway said. “We don’t know who left it, but it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Every day, about a dozen residents at New Albany Health and Rehab, dubbed the NAHR Garden Club, work in the garden or just go out and enjoy it.

“All they need is someone to help them out the door, and they can come out here and do whatever they like,” Treadaway said.

Pattie Jones, who lives at NAHR, said she watched other residents plant the garden.

“It brings back good memories for me, especially the flowers,” Jones said. “My mother loved flowers.”

Some of the raised beds are filled with flowers like impatiens, coleus, begonias, salvia and marigolds.

“I like working in all of it,” said resident Martha White. “There’s nothing I like to do better. I was raised on a farm out in the country and grew up gardening.”

Other beds and large pots in the garden area are planted with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, chives, basil and cilantro.

“Willie Conner, who’s a resident – he’s been our arms out here,” Treadaway said. “He planted the cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers.”

Resident Carl Smith is a man of few words, but has a wealth of gardening knowledge.

“He doesn’t talk much, but he sure lets you know when you’re getting it wrong,” Treadaway said.

While the residents enjoy the colorful flowers, it’s the vegetables they’re most looking forward to.

“If we’re going to work it, we’re going to eat it,” said Joyce Cates. “I was 10 years old when my parents put me in the garden. I can’t wait until our tomatoes come in.”

Treadaway said she has big plans for the garden to grow so residents can enjoy other facets of the outdoors.

“By next year, we’d like to add a raised goldfish pond,” she said. “Our goal is to keep adding to this project as we go.”