The new garden behind Community Support Services in Haliburton is open to the public and was created to honour volunteers past and present of the organization. JENN WATT Staff

CSS volunteers honoured with commemorative garden

By Jenn Watt

Oct. 4 2016

Down the hill from the little green house that holds the staff of Community Support Services curves a paved path. Lined with shrubs and marked with granite stones the walkway curls into itself forming a circle around small gardens filled with hardy plants that attract butterflies. This is the new commemorative garden which opened to the public on Friday.

A special ceremony introduced volunteers to the garden which was designed as a place of rest and contemplation in honour of those who have contributed to CSS and its predecessor Community Care Haliburton County.

CSS volunteer co-ordinator Brigitte Gebauer opened the ceremony by telling the group that the event honoured where they came from and where the organization is going.

President of Community Care before it was integrated into Haliburton Highlands Health Services in 2014 Bev Upton spoke about the importance of the people who founded and maintained Community Care since its incorporation in 1980. She recognized the leadership of Doris McCann who founded the organization as well as volunteer Kalie Ma (a “young vibrant bundle of energy”) who died suddenly in 2014.

The Community Care board had specified that the garden be a place to honour volunteers; a quiet respite; wheelchair accessible; close enough for residents of Highland Wood to visit; and be attractive and low-maintenance. It was the last project they would undertake as a board before joining HHHS.

Lee MacLean chaired the venture. And while there were some hiccups along the way Upton said: “Lee is a master at curing hiccups.”

She thanked Karen Sloan for designing and installing the gardens and Curtis Bain for donating the granite stones. Kirsten Monk helped with the etching.

Upton recognized Bernice McCann who left money to Community Care in her will to create the garden. Her donation is honoured with an inscribed stone bench.

Jeanne Anthon a former president of the Community Care board thanked those who have led the organization: Doris McCann Donna MacDonald Maureen Ruttig and now Stephanie MacLaren.

MacLaren told the audience that she felt privileged to work with the team and read a long list of the services rendered in the last year through CSS including distributing some 20000 meals to 279 people; giving 490 people rides; and engaging 939 people in the social recreation program.

She said she anticipated those numbers growing especially as provincial politicians espouse the importance of aging at home.

“People do better when they’re at home” she said adding CSS is well positioned to “be at the forefront of these changes.”

The rest of the ceremony was about the people served by the organization. Hank O’Reilly who is a vocal supporter and client of CSS sang a song he wrote especially for them called “Thank You for Your Kindness.” He said hot meals and visits from volunteers created “an amazing lifeline that I needed at that time.”

Stories were read out from other users of the organization who said the variety of programming helped battle loneliness increase physical and mental well being and exercise compassion to those at the end of their lives through the hospice program.

The commemorative garden is located behind Community Support Services in Haliburton and is open to the public.