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Community comes together to create Imagination Garden at Deerfield

Members of the New Richmond Rotary, artists from the Deerfield who helped make items in the Imagination Garden and Jackie Waalen, Deerfield Housing Director, are pictured in front of the garden’s sign last week. (Submitted photo)

When community members get together to create something for others to enjoy, it usually leads to something extraordinary. That is the case for the new Imagination Garden at the Deerfield in New Richmond that was created through the partnership of Messes & Masterpieces, the New Richmond Rotary and New Richmond High School students.

“It is a garden off the pathway of The Deerfield that provides creativity, sensory stimulation and intergenerational discussion,” said Deerfield Housing Director Jackie Waalen. “This garden puts a lot smiles in the eyes of our residents and they love to bring their friends and grandkids through the garden. From painting rocks to tying jewelry to chimes, they have really been empowered to make this garden a meaningful part of their home here at The Deerfield.”

The idea for the garden came from the minds of Waalen and Messes & Masterpieces founder/director Christine Melby. The two both have family members who are residents of the Deerfield and they thought that it would be great to put together something that could create joy and purpose for families and residents. Melby then took that idea to the Messes board and, after their approval, the plan was set into motion to create something special for everyone to enjoy.

“Our goal was to make it appropriate for all ages so a lot of thought went into what would be best. We appreciated the trust and flexibility the Deerfield gave us in implementing the project,” Melby said. “After meeting with Jackie earlier in the year, the M&M board did research and discussed options for what would best suit the space, accessibility, intergenerational aspects, sensory stimulation, creativity and a limited budget. Then we got to work creating items and coordinating classes with the residents, high school students and PSI adults to help create items. Start to finish about four months.”

According to Waalen, the Deerfield was the ideal spot to place the garden since the Deerfield had the landscape and space to make it feasible for Deerfield residents and their family, area community walkers to use and the Westfields and Dental office employees to exercise.

“Not only did we want it to benefit The Deerfield community but the surrounding healthcare organizations, and community neighborhood friends,” Waalen said.

The project was funded by a $600 donation from the New Richmond Rotary Club along with funding, donated time and commitment from Messes and Masterpieces and the high school students. A group of high school students spent their day during this year’s Service Learning Day to help with the garden project.

“Christine started projects with our residents to make chimes, landscape blocks/stones and other creative objects to add to it,” Waalen said. “The group from Messes also donated a lot of “extras’ to the garden that really complete it.”

The garden is full of many different things that allow visitors to keep their minds and bodies sharp.

“We have items for interaction like the tic-tac-toe game, a ‘talking tube’ and chalkboard,” Melby said. “Looking closely, you will also find a mini garden, beautiful stepping stones, wind chimes and lots of imaginative items to spark conversation and creative thinking. Test your looking skills the ‘Eye Spy’ game found in the  garden's mailbox.”

Although the garden is complete for now, Waalen said that more features, plants and other items will be added to the garden on a yearly basis.

“Someone asked if we are afraid of things being vandalized or stolen,” Waalen said. “Christine and I shared that this is the chance we may have to take. Again, we hope this doesn’t happen but we have to try to implement ideas like this to keep the creative energy of nature and life going.”

One of the best parts of creating the Imagination Garden, which both Waalen and Melby agree on, was seeing the different groups who worked on the project come together to create something extraordinary.

“The collaboration and imagination of the people who helped -the different ages and abilities- makes the garden a special place,” Melby said. “Working together on the garden offered them purpose and ownership and pride.”

Waalen also wanted to thank everyone who was involved with the project for all their help.

“Messes and Masterpieces artists, Deerfield residents and staff and the NR high school students and the class of adults with disabilities from PSI painted rocks, all did an amazing job developing this unique garden,” Waalen said. “The residents and I really want to express our great appreciation and thanks to Christine for her hard work in getting this done.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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