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Published: 9/14/2010

BGSU contingent pitches in to make a serene garden

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bowling Green State University students, from left, Alex Binger, Tyler Strittmatter, Mike Krafft, and Anne Yenrick set up a cross at Serenity Farm near Luckey. Bowling Green State University students, from left, Alex Binger, Tyler Strittmatter, Mike Krafft, and Anne Yenrick set up a cross at Serenity Farm near Luckey.
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LUCKEY - As a truck pulled away, its bed piled high with brush and weeds, glove-wearing workers toted potted plants, forming an outline of what will become a horseshoe-shaped serenity garden.

Near a stable at Serenity Farm on Lemoyne Road near Luckey, the serenity garden will provide a peaceful, restful place for clients, visiting families, staff, and volunteers.

With an array of greenery, such as rust-colored mums, evergreen bushes, coneflowers, a burning bush, and butterfly bushes, plus landscaping features such as benches and white-picket fencing, the garden is being created in three phases.

During the start of the first phase last Friday, students and staff from the Bowling Green State University department of recreation and wellness drew up landscaping plans, cleared brush, raked away rough parts of the garden site, and put in the ground the many donated plants.

Also assisting with the project are high school students from Hancock County.

An eight-foot-tall wooden cross, crafted by Steven Warrington of Moline, husband of Serenity Farm volunteer Kathleen Warrington, is a welcoming focal point in the garden.

"I think the garden is a wonderful idea. It will be just a nice, calm place to go," said Mrs. Warrington, shortly after she and Emily Worz of Moline, a volunteer who is also on the Serenity Farm board of trustees, watched a pair of BGSU students wibble-wobble the cross into place, firmly securing it about two feet down into the dirt.

"Isn't it gorgeous already?" asked Debra DeHoff, executive director of the nonprofit organization, just after two university students positioned two benches near the cross.

Through the use of certified therapy dogs and specially trained horses, Serenity Farm offers educational workshops, therapeutic riding, counseling services, team building sessions, and field trips.

The farm's rural setting offers a tranquil location for counseling appointments, whether through a private practice or through equine-assisted therapy inside the arena. Appointments are kept confidential.

Counseling services are specialized for individuals needing help with, for instance, addictions, obesity, eating disorders, or grief support.

Riders for Serenity Farm's equine-assisted therapy program are referred by doctors, physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and private individuals. With the horses, known at the farm as "four-legged co-facilitators," the staff and volunteers work with clients, for instance, who have learning or speech delays, hearing or vision impairment, behavior difficulties, or autism.

Horseback riding offers therapy to strengthen muscles, increase attention focus, help social skills develop, empower self-esteem and confidence, and promote speech and learning skills.

Serenity Farm, now in its 10th year, serves clients in Wood, Lucas, Henry, Sandusky, Ottawa, and Hancock counties.

A serenity garden has been considered for several years, and after exploring some other serenity gardens around the state, "we sorted out what we didn't want," Mrs. DeHoff said.

And plans came together for what "we did want. We wanted something for our families to enjoy," she said. And the serenity garden will be a special place for students with autism and for those who are sight impaired, she said.

"It will be a place also for our volunteers and their families, a peaceful, peaceful garden with something for everyone to enjoy," Mrs. DeHoff said.

About 60 volunteers assist with the services and programs at Serenity Farm, and some of them face challenges in their lives, which means the new garden will be a comfort to them as well, she said.

Mrs. DeHoff said she's thrilled with the garden's connection to BGSU's department of recreation and wellness.

"Our dream from our board of trustees to staff level to clientele would be for the recreation and wellness students to adopt the garden and hand it off to the next classmates," she said. "That would be a dream come true."

But for now she's content knowing that the students are involved. "They are taking part in what is needed now, and they are making it their own."

Plans call for the installation of three tractor tires - the really big kind - that can be painted and converted into raised planters. Requests for used tires are being put out to neighboring farmers, Mrs. DeHoff said.

A grit-covered walking path is planned too.

"There will be something for all of your five senses," she said.

The department of recreation and wellness is participating in the creation of the garden as part of an annual service project, Lona Leck, assistance director of the department, said.

The project, said Faith Yingling of West Toledo, "is a way for our department, our university, our faculty and staff to do something to benefit the community." She is director of wellness at BGSU, and she was at the garden pitching in to help last Friday.

As BGSU students tweaked the landscaping design, junior Addie Welch warned against planting too close to the nearby pasture. "Otherwise the horses will munch," she said.

Sky and Bandit, four-legged favorites of the clients, watched the garden-building activity from just beyond the fence.

Hancock County students will return to make an herb garden in the U-shaped area of the serenity garden, and they have suggested adding a vegetable plot, including a pumpkin patch. Their ideas will be considered, Mrs. DeHoff said.

BGSU senior Alex Binger of Clyde, Ohio, studied strips of plastic flagstone edging as students discussed what would go where.

It's important to get some community service experience, he said. "It's a nice way to build up your leadership abilities." A finance major, he said "you need leadership abilities to work with the professionals" out there in the real world.



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