The Healing Power of Plants: Donna Vincent and ARC

By Chris Keefer

Gar­den­ers know things.

They know the emo­tion­al ben­e­fits of nur­tur­ing plants, the phys­i­cal ben­e­fits of dig­ging, sort­ing, car­ry­ing, and arrang­ing. They know the per­son­al ben­e­fits of accom­plish­ment, sat­is­fac­tion, and pride. They know that being out­doors — expe­ri­enc­ing the sun and sea­sons; hear­ing insects, birds and breezes; feel­ing and smelling dirt, leaves, water — is a ground­ing, sta­bi­liz­ing expe­ri­ences. Don­na Vin­cent, an Arbore­tum vol­un­teer, chan­nels all these ben­e­fits to help the par­tic­i­pants in her ARC pro­gram under­stand these things too.

Don­na Vin­cent has a long asso­ci­a­tion with Lan­dis as both a vol­un­teer and a for­mer Board mem­ber. She works for ARC in Sch­enec­tady as Hor­ti­cul­ture Coor­di­na­tor. Found­ed in 1952, Sch­enec­tady ARC is a chap­ter of The ARC New York, Inc., a pri­vate, not-for-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to sup­port­ing indi­vid­u­als with intel­lec­tu­al and oth­er devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties and their fam­i­lies through­out New York State. 

The ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits of gar­den envi­ron­ments have been doc­u­ment­ed since ancient times. Hor­ti­cul­tur­al ther­a­py helps improve mem­o­ry, cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, task ini­ti­a­tion, lan­guage skills, and social­iza­tion. In phys­i­cal reha­bil­i­ta­tion, hor­ti­cul­tur­al ther­a­py can help strength­en mus­cles and improve coor­di­na­tion, bal­ance, and endurance. In voca­tion­al hor­ti­cul­tur­al ther­a­py set­tings, par­tic­i­pants learn to work inde­pen­dent­ly, prob­lem solve, and fol­low directions.

Donna’s job respon­si­bil­i­ties include over­see­ing a 2500-square foot com­mer­cial green­house, where she teach­es par­tic­i­pants the grow­ing process from seed to har­vest. She also man­ages a veg­etable gar­den that grows pro­duce for sale at Sch­enec­tady City Farmer’s Mar­ket and puts food on the tables of res­i­dents. Those in her pro­gram are involved with a long list of endeav­ors that include: flo­ral design class­es using recy­cled flow­ers from local funer­al homes; grow­ing house­plants, annu­als and veg­eta­bles in the green­house; hav­ing acces­si­ble veg­etable gar­dens in the back court­yard; flower plant­i­ngs at the site in Sch­enec­tady; and a ver­mi-com­post­ing project (i.e., the com­post­ing process using var­i­ous species of worms). 

Don­na indi­cat­ed that sell­ing our extra plants at the Sch­enec­tady City Farmer’s Mar­ket each week dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son helps sus­tain our pro­gram, as well as give our indi­vid­u­als the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­act with the public.” 

There’s more! Indi­vid­u­als at ARC vol­un­teer in the com­mu­ni­ty with hor­ti­cul­tur­al-relat­ed activ­i­ties, such as flower arrange­ments for ARC employ­ees, and for Admin­is­tra­tive Professional’s Day and Nurse’s Day. ARC’s gar­den­ers go to the Eddy Senior Cen­ter twice a month. They help out at spring and fall plant­i­ngs of com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens, at the Rot­ter­dam Unit­ed Methodist Church, and at Pine Ridge Indus­tries. They have con­tracts for plant­i­ng and main­tain­ing the flower beds at Albany Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, the Rot­ter­dam Methodist Church, and Pine Ridge Indus­tries. ARC par­tic­i­pants reg­u­lar­ly con­tribute to both the spring and fall plant sales at Landis.

The scope of Donna’s pro­gram is wide, var­ied, and ben­e­fi­cial to par­tic­i­pants, their fam­i­lies, the pub­lic, and con­tractees. Group gar­den­ing pro­motes social inter­ac­tion. Peo­ple of any age can do it and activ­i­ties can be var­ied accord­ing to abil­i­ties. Gar­den­ing for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties helps to improve motor skills and reduce stress, increase social skills, devel­op job skills and all around enrich­ment – ben­e­fits that any gar­den­er enjoys!

Fall 2018

Volume 36 , Number 4

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