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‘Garden angels’ bring joy to JourneyCare CareCenter

They are often called “the garden gurus,” “garden goddesses” or “garden angels” by the JourneyCare staff.

But the members of the Barrington Garden Committee are humble, saying they are simply dedicated and passionate about the work they do.

Kirsten Jensen, Linda Kurcab, Nancy Kholamian and Pamela Self volunteer their time to plan garden updates for all four seasons at JourneyCare’s Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington, along with planting, watering and weeding the grounds, or even assisting in additional areas of the CareCenter when needed.

Even though last year was filled with challenges due to COVID-19, they maintained their commitment to bringing joy to patients and their families at the CareCenter.

“This group of women has a dedication and joy that is unmatched,” Pamela says. “It has been an honor to work with them and become their friend.”

This past holiday season, the decorations inside the Barrington CareCenter were minimized due to restrictions from the pandemic, which included closed common areas. So, instead, the “garden angels” worked together to hang lights and decorations outside the entire CareCenter to bring joy to staff, patients and their families. As a special touch, they made sure each patient room was decorated with an illuminated wreath outside their garden to view.

“They are true unsung heroes who make the grounds in Barrington beautiful all year long,” JourneyCare Volunteer Services Manager Mary Jo O’Brien says. “They work independently, never seek credit, often putting in quite a bit of their own funds to create the best environment.”

Barrington Garden Committee members at a glance

  • Kirsten – volunteer for six years: Because COVID-19 prevented decorating in the interior of the CareCenter, she looks forward to being together with the other ladies to design pots, garden beds and prioritize new areas in 2021. “I am really grateful that the work we do is appreciated,” Kirsten says. “All of us have had wonderful interactions with family of patients. One day, while I was quietly deadheading plants by the fountain, a woman came out of a patient room filled with emotion. She told me how her mom, the patient, found solace in gardening. As we talked, she began to assist me with the plants. By the end of our conversation, she said she felt much better, thanked me and went back to her mom. There is a lot to be said for how gardens can provide comfort and solace.”
  • Linda – volunteer for six years: Linda says she finds it funny that the group is called the gardening goddesses, even though they are often covered in dirt when working at the CareCenter. She explains, “Volunteering has been life-giving to me by seeing how patients and families are impacted by what we do.” Last year, Linda jumped in to help make masks for staff, patients and their families when there was a shortage due to the pandemic. She hopes for more donations this year so the committee can expand their gardening efforts.
  • Nancy – volunteer for 10 years; Gardening Committee for five: “Due to COVID we did more than usual outside to bring beauty, light and encouragement last holiday season,” she says. “We worked with staff in Barrington to identify windows that could use a splash of light and joy. I think it was really important to help encourage the staff and bless them as they work so hard and give so much!” This year, Nancy hopes for more in-person connections and gatherings.
  • Pamela – volunteer for three years: She was introduced twice to JourneyCare, when her mother-in-law and a close friend were hospice patients. Since she is a landscape architect, the gardening group was a natural fit. This year, Pam looks forward to being inside the CareCenter so she can interact more with staff, patients and their families. “I like to help with rearranging donated flowers into vases for rooms and public spaces,” she says. “Decorating for the holiday is important to make the center feel more home like.” also hopes to obtain more donated plant material this year so the group can complete gardens for individual patient rooms. “Plants are fickle and each year a few will die from various reasons,” Pam explains. “We are constantly replanting in the gardens.”

All the women enjoy working together to bring happiness to those at the Barrington CareCenter. These “garden angels” are part of a larger group of volunteers at JourneyCare who give their time and work to make a difference in the lives of patients and families served by JourneyCare. To find out more about volunteer opportunities visit journeycare.org/volunteer.