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Blessing opens Providence Milwaukie Hospital garden

Produce from the garden will be donated to food bank

Rain was sprinkling down during the blessing of Providence Milwaukie Hospital's community garden, but no one seemed to mind.

In fact, head volunteer gardener Christian Vedder said that it's considered lucky to plant a garden when it's raining, so blessing a garden should be even more lucky.

Vedder, a registered nurse in the emergency department, green team members, administrative staff at the hospital and other invited guests gathered at the garden site just behind the hospital to take part in the blessing ceremony on May 31.

Lauren Bridge, chief nursing executive at Providence Milwaukie, told the guests that the garden was a 'sacred place' that brought hospital staff together to 'send a message of hope to the community.'

All of the produce in the garden will be donated to Oregon Food Bank clients in the Milwaukie area, noted Carrie Kikel, manager, Providence Milwaukie Hospital public relations. This includes residents of Hillside Manor and Park, a housing complex near the hospital.

'This is the first community garden in the Providence system,' she said, noting that the project was approved in February, and volunteers got right to work breaking up the soil and setting up the garden boxes.

'Our goal was to have 12 boxes, and we have 20,' she said, adding that all the work has been done by more than 30 Providence Milwaukie Hospital employees on their own time, along with their family members.

Alison Abbors, the Learning Gardens coordinator for the Oregon Food Bank, said she helped the volunteers 'figure out the logistics of the site,' and helped them choose mulch and fencing materials.

Tina Seely, the manager of the Providence Milwaukie Hospital environmental services, said she began looking for donations from the community in February, and then the project just 'snowballed.'

'We wanted to help people in our community and we wanted to be first at something - we have bragging rights,' she added.

Harvesting will take place on Tuesdays, and 30 pounds of lettuce, broccoli and kale have already been delivered to Hillside Manor and Park residents, noted Carmen Jacobsen, a registered nurse and assistant manager of the short stay surgical unit and endoscopy department at the hospital.

Vedder, who described himself as a 'self-proclaimed human backhoe,' said that he has put in a couple of hundred hours in the garden, noting that the boxes contain many varieties of vegetables; along the back are melons and trellised berries. Fruit trees are being added to the mix, and on the day of the blessing, Keith Hyde, Providence Milwaukie Hospital chief executive, planted an apple tree to end the ceremony.

Mike Geller, program manager for the hospital's regional sustainability program, told the guests that the Providence Milwaukie Hospital community garden was his favorite project.

'This has brought the community and staff together,' Geller said. 'The support is overwhelming.'