Urban Garden continues to provide benefits

Photo by Scott McCloskey ABOVE: Edelman Garden continues to provide tremendous benefits for clients of the Seeing Hand Association. Pictured at the front of the Wheeling Island garden are from left: Assistant Garden Manager Paula Weisal, Keith Gloor, Debbie Hatfield, Seeing Hand Executive Director Karen Haught, Brian Carpenter, Garden Manager Meredith Brown-Sterling, and John Renforth.

WHEELING — Five years after the creation of a quaint urban garden between a row of houses on Wheeling Island, the venture continues to provide tremendous benefits for blind and visually impaired clients of The Seeing Hand Association.

While Edelman Garden continues to be a “work in progress” each season, Seeing Hand Executive Director Karen Haught said the benefits their clients receive from working in the garden are unmeasurable and it continues provide new opportunities for them.

“We are always looking for ways to engage them,” Haught explained. She said they are currently trying out a new virtual reality “Powerful Plant” interactive app for cellphones in which the auditory feature of the app explains how to take care of a particular plant, when to harvest the produce and what nutrients the plant provides. In addition to using the new app, Haught said they are planting what is referred to as a “Three Sisters Garden” for the first time. She said the idea revolves around growing corn, beans and squash and how the three (sister) plants support each other.

With a symmetrical shape, small sidewalks, and paths of wooden chips, the garden is adapted to be safe and is designed to assist Seeing Hand clients with maneuvering around the organic space with assistance from on-site garden managers. In addition to the planting process, once or twice each week throughout the growing season, several of the agency’s clients are assisted with a multitude of activities throughout the garden. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, lettuce and sunflowers are among the many other plants growing in the garden. Haught said if they are provided an addition growing space by the proprietor of the next door lot, they hope to grow pumpkins for the first time this year.

“If we do that, we may actually provide the pumpkins at the end of the harvest to some underprivileged children,” Haught explained.

Haught said part of the mission of the Seeing Hand is community outreach.

“Part of the mission of our garden is education and outreach — to try and educate the community on gardening,” Haught said. “We also have Northwood bringing a couple clients here.”

She said Northwood officials believe some of their clients may benefit from working outside in the garden with clients from the Seeing Hand.

The lot was donated to the Seeing Hand Association by former Wheeling residents Aaron and Rhoda Edelman, who left behind a gift that will continue to provide opportunities for the blind and visually impaired. Haught said while they are in the early stages of the growing season, one of the challenges they face this year is finding volunteers who can help work and build small vertical structures, like wooden trellises throughout the garden.

“So if there is a volunteer who likes to build things and likes to get out in the garden, that’s something else we need,” Haught said.

In addition, the Seeing Hand Association and the West Virginia Women Work Step-Up for Women Program teamed up to build a small greenhouse at the rear of the garden site last year as a way for the clients to start growing plants prior to the outdoor growing season.

The Seeing Hand sells some of their produce from the garden every Thursday at its office in North Wheeling and continue to work with a local church to provide vouchers for the underprivileged who are in need of fresh produce.

The Seeing Hand Association’s mission is to assist all ages of visually impaired people living in the Upper Ohio Valley to achieve a high quality of life, self sufficiency and independence. The North Wheeling facility also provides employment opportunities for clients who make and repair products in its workshop. Haught is hopeful the garden will continue to offer educational outreach and a viable source of income for the association for years to come.

“If you talk to our employees, they all love to come here,” Haught said. “Gardening is not something they would do at their house, gardening is not something they would ever get an opportunity to do because it’s hard to get around. … Here, we got the sidewalks and the adaptability. It’s a safer structured environment. When a blind person can get fluid at harvesting ripe tomatoes with touch — it is just amazing.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with the garden, they can contact Haught at 304-232-4810.

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