The Story Behind Our Horticultural Therapy Program

Summer is now in full swing, which means it’s also the perfect time for gardening.  At Stephen’s Place, gardening is a therapeutic time for residents, made even better now that our greenhouse is complete.

Michele Goodwin, director of our greenhouse project, has volunteered at Stephen’s Place since we opened. She not only had the idea for our Horticultural Therapy program but, along with her wonderful husband Greg, built our state-of-the-art greenhouse.

Michele first heard about horticultural therapy while she was on a trip to Japan.  “One of the women I met told me during a casual conversation over lunch that she was a ‘horticultural therapist,’ and of course my ears perked right up!” Michele said.  “I had no idea there was such a specialty, and so I asked her about it, and learned that this was just the sort of program we needed to develop at Stephen’s Place.”

From there she also learned that Teresia Hazen, the president of the National Organization for Horticultural Therapy, lived nearby in Portland and was mutually involved in another company with the Goodwin’s.  She decided to call Teresia and the greenhouse project was launched. “I knew nothing about design or function of greenhouses, and so I started doing research,” Michele said.  “Because of her help, we have a much more practical design – our greenhouse is more of a classroom than a standard production greenhouse.”

After building was complete, Goodwin brought on Jolie Donohue, an intern of Hazen’s, as a horticultural therapist to run the program.  Aside from regular gardening activities, residents learn about beneficial garden bugs, how plants produce seeds, seed collection and propagation and more. The program gives them the opportunity to create, bond and learn.

In the past, students from Good Shepherd Montessori Preschool have participated in the Garden Club with residents. Michele said she hopes to have a program that will bring the students in once a month.  She also said that one or two residents will be helping water the preschool’s garden during August while the children are on vacation. Other future plans for the greenhouse include reaching out to Ellsworth Elementary to increase intergenerational interaction as much as possible for the residents of Stephen’s Place.

“When someone tries something new, or something he or she thinks they cannot do, and they have success!” Goodwin said.  “That’s the big reward, I think.”

Retired from teaching college level writing, Michele continues to volunteer at Stephen’s Place, saying she believes “once a teacher, always a teacher.” She recently became a member of our board because she has put in so much time and effort to make Stephen’s Place come alive.

Michele and Greg have helped us build our community in so many ways, the most of which truly cannot be explained in words. Not only does their generosity extend to Stephen’s Place, but they are incredible supporters of Vancouver and Portland communities. So much so that they were awarded the 2017 Philanthropist of the Year by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.

Thank you both for everything you do and have done for our community.