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St. Luke's Church begins work on healing, meditation garden

At the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Meditation Garden at St. Luke's Church in New Richmond, participants (left to right) were Steve and Lori Kromrey, owners of Lake Kountry Nursery; Steve Kromrey, Jr.; office professional Mary Pat Geddes and financial consultant Jesse Kvitek with Thrivent Financial for Lutherans; Dave Thiel, chairman of the board of elders for St. Luke's; Jean Needham, director of development for Westfields Hospital; and Pastor Matt Hein.

A well-known statue is finding a new home across the street from Westfields Hospital.

The Healing Hands sculpture, which sat in the lobby of the New Richmond hospital for more than a decade, will be the focal point of a new Meditation Garden being installed by St. Luke's Lutheran Church.

A special groundbreaking ceremony was held Aug. 22 to kick off the project and landscaping crew members wasted no time in getting the work underway.

According to St. Luke's Pastor Matthew Hein, the Meditation Garden idea came about after the Healing Hands sculpture was salvaged from its old site.

Because St. Luke's sits right across from the hospital, and also the new Cancer Center of Western Wisconsin, church leaders thought it was a good idea to provide a spot for people to walk, meditate and enjoy nature, Hein said.

"We have such a beautiful piece of property here and we wanted to use it to more intentionally bless the community," he said.

He said the church hopes the general community will feel free to take advantage of the garden as well.

"Our vision is that this meditation garden will provide a space for rest, meditation, prayer and wellness for both the people of St. Luke's and the community of New Richmond," he said.

The plans for the garden include numerous perennial flower beds, trees and shrubs. Herbs will also be planted to offer "soothing smells" to people who are in the garden.

A brick pathway is being laid in the heart of the Meditation Garden. "We're so thankful to be a part of the New Richmond community. Our city is "The City Beautiful" and we hope this garden contributes to that identity," Hein said.

Jean Needham, director of development for Westfields Hospital, said she's glad the former hospital statue will be the focal point of the new garden.

"Westfields Hospital is most pleased that this piece of history is being preserved in a setting that will continue to provide serenity and hope," she said.

The Healing Hands statue, which was originally financed through Hospital Auxiliary fundraisers, has been a prominent feature in the lobby area for years, Needham noted. Now it will continue to inspire the community for years to come.

"As luck, or divine intervention, would happen, St. Luke's offered a very appropriate and meaningful option for a new home for the Healing Hands," she said.

The garden is being made possible in part through the "Thrivent Community" program established recently by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. St. Luke's was chosen as one of five churches selected nationwide to be a pilot project for the new initiative. "Thrivent Community" members at St. Luke's decided to make the garden their first project.

Thrivent Financial consultant Jesse Kvitek said he applied for the pilot project for St. Luke's and he was pleased the local church was chosen. It meant that plans for the Meditation Garden could pick up steam.

"The process, which has evolved very quickly, has been very impressive to see materialize," Kvitek said.

St. Luke's leaders had already identified a desire to help the community focus on wellness, healing and health in some way. As the new cancer center was being constructed, Kvitek said, the garden idea seemed to be a way to accomplish some of their goals.

"This garden became a top priority since it will welcome all people to come and enjoy peace and tranquility," he said. "The hope is that families enduring a painful time in their lives come across the street to enjoy the Healing Hands statue and the beautiful garden setting."

Thrivent has a long history of working with communities to accomplish projects that meet the needs of many, Kvitek said.

"We are proud to have helped create the Thrivent Community at St. Luke's Lutheran Church."

Steve and Lori Kromrey, owners of Lake Kountry Nursery, said they were excited to be asked to participate in the St. Luke's project. The Kromrey family lost a son several years ago and like being involved in projects that provide hope and encouragement to those who are hurting.

"Everyone in this life goes through hardships and life changes ... some minimal and some major," Lori Kromrey said. "May this garden be a quiet place to meditate, to get away, even if just for a few moments in the midst of a stressful day."