Beauty from Ashes. Literally.

Posted by Barbara Comito, Marketing Director Aug 8, 2018 10:27:52 AM

Two years ago, UGM Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall became a non-smoking program and facility. Lots of discussion, work and ongoing challenges have been involved in that decision, but this post isn’t about that. This post is about the cigarette-butt-filled, slug-ridden "smoking area" that was abandoned when the change was made.

Pat Haldi, a volunteer who was instrumental in bringing about the change and walked alongside many of the women on their journey to quit smoking, had a vision for turning the abandoned smoking area into a beautiful garden. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a gardener, so she called a friend – Janie Edwards.

Janie loves beauty. She’s a watercolor artist, a dance instructor, and arguably one of the best gardeners in Spokane. Janie accepted the challenge and brought a host of people along with her.

“It was really a ton of people, all working together, everybody doing it pro bono.”

First, Janie, consulting with other garden designers, came up with a plan. They decided on a serpentine sidewalk, a circular patio, and a pergola – all of which had to be newly laid and built. Brad Paulsen and Steve Winterer, both contractors whom Janie knew from Whitworth Presbyterian Church, spent two days laying cement and one day building the pergola.

Garden collage

Another contractor/farmer, Jason West, wanted to help, and he had steer manure, excellent garden fertilizer. Janie said, “I want that steer manure, but first I’ve got to find my soil.” She headed out to Wittkopf Landscape Supply in the Valley, where Mrs. Wittkopf donated 25 cubic yards of 60/40 mix (60% compost; 40% clean sand).

Next problem? How do you get that soil into a garden surrounded by a wall? Janie connected with a trucking company willing to donate the use of one of their huge trucks with a conveyor belt and the driver to operate the remote control.

“The half-block-long truck pulled up alongside the garden on A Street, and the driver stood inside the garden with a remote that controlled this huge arm, and they blasted all this dirt into the fenced garden, and I got to tell them where to blast.”

AOH garden workers crop

Another man volunteered to recalibrate the underground sprinkling system. Janie and friends mounded the dirt into berms and added the manure.

Finally, the Women of Whitworth Church donated about $1,500 for plants, a birdbath and outdoor art pieces.

“The most fun was shopping for the right combination of perennials that would do well in shade. There are hundreds of plants (and 400 bulbs). We did mass planting in color. We raised the berms (made hills) which makes plants very happy. It gets good water. The soil’s fabulous, and it has been an incredibly successful and easy-to-maintain garden.

“It was a team of 25 people. Really a bunch of guys – because I said these guys will get it done – and then when I got all the plant material, it was a bunch of grannies who came and planted everything.”

Janie's Bible study members teamed up to help with the beautiful garden project.

Janie's Bible study members teamed up to help with the garden project.


Even if you’re not a gardener, that description probably sounds like a lot of work. Janie said she was motivated by beauty.

“The single most lacking thing in a lot of distressed young women (and women in general) is a lack of beauty in their lives. Poverty isn’t beautiful, and the vision of a before and after – because this was really ugly – I thought would be an inspiration to them, give them a place for prayer and serenity, and garden therapy is incredibly renewing both physiologically and psychologically and spiritually. To be in a peaceful, quiet garden is to get closer to the Lord. So my motivation is all about beauty.


“Jesus made them beautiful, and they don’t know it. The Lord loves them and wants to redeem their lives, so if I can encourage them and be a light, it gives me joy. It gives me a lot of joy.”

Postscript: After Janie finished with the garden, Northwest Farm Credit Services joined this happy party by providing a new play area for the children, a raised bed for vegetable gardening and additional outdoor furniture. What a great collaboration - and you can join our team too!

Click here to sign up for a volunteer orientation. >


Topics: Women's Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall, beauty, peace


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