Keeping things in bloom

By Geoff Lee

October 4, 2017 2:31 PM

Retiree Don Whittaker took it upon himself to plant flowers along the entranceway to the Lloydminster Hospital starting seven years ago, and hasn’t stopped since. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

Plant, pull, and repeat.
That’s the annual cycle of activities for Blooms for Healthcare coordinators who are now planning what to grow next spring at Prairie North Health Region facilities in Lloydminster.
“Between now and next spring, there’s just a lot of planning and making sure we’ve got the right plant material we want to plant here and there,” said Ed Andersen, who runs the program with his pal Don Whittaker.
Over the winter, the two seniors will figure out what kind of a wow factor they want with a certain bed like the ones in front of the hospital and cafeteria courtyard, which were planted with petunias and grasses this spring.
Next year they may add plants along both sides of the front door if the funding is available.
The planning phase for 2018 is underway after both men led a team of boy scout volunteers to pull and bag plantings for disposal on Saturday starting at the Lloydminster Hospital.
The crews also pulled planters at the Lloydminster & Area Home Care Services, the Jubilee Home, the Dr. Cooke Extended Care Centre and the Lloydminster Continuing Care Centre in an expansion year of planting.
Andersen said at the other four sites they planted a mix of million bells and grasses sourced at Kathy’s Greenhouse near Marwayne.
“They provide professional advice in terms of the coordination of the plants and what goes where and shapes, and all that kind of stuff,” said Andersen.
He noted he and Whittaker have put a lot of their own money into the project themselves and are always looking for more volunteers, especially for weeding and watering.
“We always need more volunteers and cash donations going to the foundation to continue on,” he said.
Blooms for Healthcare is run in partnership with the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation that manages the money flow of donations for planting and Prairie North.
Andersen and Whittaker now have an MOU in place with Prairie North to keep the program running when all health regions in Saskatchewan merge into one.
“We try to involve some of the staff at the facilities,” said Andersen, who added it’s quite a challenge to get everything done over the course of the summer.
This year, up to 70 employees at the Lloydminster Hospital helped with planting and maintenance, along with good staff involvement at the other facilities.
“Initially, the most important thing was to create a positive experience walking into the door of a health facility,” said Whittaker, with testimonials from visitors and patients that the flowers work.
“They’re just lovely,” said Penny Hollington, who was visiting the hospital last week.
“It’s nice to see that someone’s taking the time to maintain them and keep them nice.”
Whittaker started planting at the hospital and homecare facility seven years ago after serving on the board of Lloydminster Health Region Foundation and the Prairie North Health Region board among others.
He said having been involved in healthcare from a governance point of view, he was aware when a budget was cut, maintenance was the first to be cut, and that included gardening.
Whittaker said the guiding idea behind the Blooms for Healthcare is in keeping with the Eden Principle and the Healing Gardens aspect of healthcare that support wellbeing and recovery.
Jean Craigie, who fell and broke her hip last week, won’t argue with that when it comes to value of the flowers and plants along the entrance to the hospital.
“I think they’re really pretty, I like the colour too,” she said, adding they make her feel better.
“Flowers always do, don’t they?”
Seeing people’s reaction to the plants is what gives Andersen the most enjoyment since he teamed up with Whittaker about three years ago.
“It’s just satisfaction seeing stuff grow and seeing people enjoying flowers and blooms for the summer, and giving them the opportunity to help out with their spiritual (well being) and what not as they see them,” he said.
“The key is to bring some wow factor to families and individuals who are in the facilities.”
Blooms for Heathcare also allows Andersen and Whittaker to stay busy in retirement and work with other like-minded people and companies in the community that help the cause.
“The Lloydminster & District Co-op has been a tremendous group in business that has supported us,” said Andersen.
The Co-op’s Growing the Good program sponsored three planting projects by funding selected non profit groups to carry out the work in exchange for $1,000.
“We had the Bea Fisher come in and help us plant in an area of the hospital and the homecare building,” said Whittaker.
The Kinettes were also funded by the Co-op to remove a lot of the foliage and trees that have aged at the Dr. Cooke facility.
“During that process, they volunteered for another project for nothing and we did a major clean up in what we call the east courtyard that has been overgrown and needing a lot of TLC for some time,” Whittaker.
The third and final funded project was the boy scout removal and bagging of plants at all project sites.

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