Courtesy of Cancer Support Community
When Rebecca* was diagnosed with a second round of cancer, in 2000, she went to the Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis a week after surgery. There, she found the community’s Inspiration Garden, a patch of fertile land that gives members a quiet place to relax and an opportunity to use their horticultural skills. She recalls the joy of “harvesting fresh, healthy organic herbs and vegetables" and "watching plants root, grow, flourish, and feed" the community.
Another member, Peggy Sharp, echoes those sentiments. “The garden has given me a sense of hope,” she says. “As I see growth in planted seeds and flowers, it helps me to dig down inside and fuel personal growth and strength, both physical and mental.”
The Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis believes that a green thumb is a vital asset in enriching lives and achieving physical and spiritual rejuvenation. The local affiliate of an international nonprofit, it devotes resources to helping patients, families, and anyone who's lost a loved one to cancer.
Since 1993, the group has served the needs of its members by offering more than 100 monthly free programs, which provide social and emotional support while bestowing members with the necessary education to develop coping skills, inspire hope, and improve lives. The Inspiration Garden is just one of those programs.
Planted in 2015 and harvested last year, the garden has taken root through collaborative partnerships with Earthdance Organic Farm School, which helped establish the garden, and the Missouri Botanical Garden's therapeutic horticultural program, which provides mindfulness and meditation classes, as well as art workshops. From April through October, members plant crops and receive free gardening classes.
“We all have to work together to make it work," says program director Renata Sledge. "We have to plan, collaborate, and compromise on deciding what gets planted and harvested. We are lucky to have some wise members who are gardeners and share their knowledge.”
She also sees benefits reaped from working in the garden. “We know that it helps decrease anger, fear, and stress while assisting members with eating healthier,” she says. “Also, when people are in natural places, they have an improved outlook on life and an improved recovery time from illness."
Another way the nonprofit is supporting those affected by cancer and encouraging healthy habits: Steps for Hope Walk, being held in Creve Coeur Park on May 13 beginning at 9 a.m.
The group is also kicking off a three-part educational series, called "How Do Your Genes Fit?" beginning April 27.
*Name changed to protect privacy
For more information on the Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis, visit cancersupportstl.org or call 314-238-2000.