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Wellness blooms for gardeners in Grande Prairie

June 16, 2020

Dietitian Day

Two members of the “Labenders” team plant annuals in a flowerbed at the QEII Hospital.

Flowerbeds bring hospital staff, community together

Story and photo by Sara Blake

GRANDE PRAIRIE — Staff and volunteers are really ‘digging’ wellness at the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Hospital this spring. Teams have adopted flowerbeds on the hospital grounds to plant some cheer and brighten the season for staff, patients and others who come across the blooms.

This is the second year for the initiative, organized by the QEII Wellness Committee, to encourage healthy lifestyles and workplaces for local Alberta Health Services (AHS) staff through fun activities.

“We try to promote a holistic view of wellness, not simply focusing on the traditional healthy eating and exercise,” says Candice Edey, AHS Executive Associate at the QEII and member of the Wellness Committee. “Some of the events we’ve supported include a fun run, free group yoga sessions for staff, Wellness Expos in the cafeteria and we’ve helped with staff barbecues and Christmas events.”

Entitled GROWing commUNITY, the flowerbed project includes community volunteers. Flowers were donated to the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital Foundation by various merchants in the area, including Home Depot, Dunvegan Gardens, Echo Hill Farms, Rona, Home Hardware and Canadian Tire. Meanwhile, Costco donated water and snacks for participants. The gift plants include bright annuals as well as hardy perennials to ensure blooms return in the years to come.

Judy Christiansen, an assistant store manager at Home Depot in Grande Prairie, says this is an easy initiative to support.

“It allows people to enjoy a project outdoors, so we thought it was a great idea,” she says. “We were worried it wasn’t going to happen this year, with everything that’s going on. When we found out it was a go, we were quick to jump at the opportunity to be involved. We have a good group of people who like to help give back to the community that supports us as well.”
 
The planting went a bit differently this year, with smaller groups tidying the beds and planting at different times over the course of a few weeks, rather than the large planting party hosted in 2019. Even with physical distancing measures in place, Edey says participants were eager to dig in and get their hands dirty.

“We felt it was important to go ahead with the flowers again this year. It offers a lot to a wide variety of people. The teams who are involved get the benefit of the outdoors and working with the plants and flowers, while everyone who walks past through the summer — the patients, visitors, Mackenzie Place residents — we all get to enjoy the view of beautiful flowers. It’s not your typical wellness event.”

A group of community volunteers from the local MNP accounting branch were also excited to help.

“At MNP we believe, now more than ever – in the importance of community,” says Lindsey McNeil, regional marketing manager for MNP.

“The hospital is the heart of our community. It’s a place that we all need and utilize at some point in our lives. We are honoured to be able to assist in beautifying the space and are so thankful to all hospital staff during these trying times.”

As well as beautifying the grounds, GROWing commUNITY inspires friendly competition between teams. Festivities will culminate with the “judging” of the flowerbeds later this summer by members of the local Grande Prairie Gardening Club. The winning team will be awarded the coveted GROWing commUNITY trophy, provided by the foundation.

“Every time I was out working in one of the planters last summer I had people comment on how much they enjoyed seeing the flowers,” says Edey. “It’s a good feeling to be part of something everyone enjoys.”

In all, nine flower planters grace the hospital and Mackenzie Place grounds. Their volunteer gardeners are also committed to weeding and maintaining the flower beds throughout the season.