Columbiettes to help bring Bridgeway food garden to fruition

| 20 Sep 2017 | 11:15

By Laurie Gordon
— Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services of Sussex County is getting a garden. Soil quality has been a challenge for the people the agency serves to grow crops, but this Saturday, the creation of a raised garden, with the help of the Don Bosco Columbiettes, will enable food plants to grow, as well as facilitate a great learning opportunity.
Bridgeway of Sussex County, headquartered in Newton, serves adults 18 and over who have experienced psychiatric illness consistent with DSM-IV Axis I diagnoses. People served demonstrate impaired functioning in at least one of the following domains on a continuing and intermittent basis for at least one year: personal self care, interpersonal relationships, work, school, ability to live in the community, ability to acquire and/or maintain safe, affordable housing and is at risk of requiring a more restrictive living situation and/or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse.
Bridgeway's Partial Care Program (one of five programs it provides) is founded on Rehabilitation and Recovery. Rehabilitation refers to developing the skills and resources needed to live successfully in the community with a mental illness. Recovery refers to reclaiming one’s role and identity as a person who is part of the community, not defined by the illness that one has experienced.
“In the program we offer skill development and resource development, both to function in the community (home, work, school) and to use natural resources (social network, community activities, community resources) to stay connected as a contributor to the community,” said Diane Piagesi-Zett, director of the Community Staff Team.
She added, “We help people define meaningful roles and a sense of purpose, both of which are often severely impacted by experiencing a serious illness (any chronic illness can do this).
The Program provides groups and activities that help manage the illness, recover from the illness, as well as activities that increase skills and knowledge for work and for life.”
There are three “Pre-vocational Units”: Kitchen Unit (Food Service - an industrial kitchen unit that prepares a hot nutritious meal daily for up to 50 people); a Clerical Unit that does essential paperwork and clerical activities for the program, and a Horticulture Unit that grows and maintains house plants, outdoor flower gardens and vegetable gardens.
“We hope to prepare people for employment, meaningful roles and to have a strong sense of purpose. These are often lost while experiencing a major illness,” Piagesi-Zett said. “Prior to becoming part of Bridgeway in 2010, our program was based out of Newton Medical Center and operated a 50 foot wholesale greenhouse.
Under the tutelage of Bridgeway Board Certified Nurse Practitioner, Deborah Drumm, APRN, BC, individuals at the former Newton Memorial location grew calendula flowers, harvested them and made their own calendula cream. With the addition of the raised gardens, similar projects will be possible. Since the move, they have not been able to establish a greenhouse. So they have an indoor “Green Room” for the plants, maintain many plants inside the building year round, and do seasonal outdoor planting and cultivating in beds around the building.
People served by Bridgeway have been growing small crops for fresh produce in the Kitchen Unit since Bridgeway moved, but Piagesi-Zett are reiterated, “We have been challenged by the soil conditions and the small patch of ground we use. Raised beds will give us a better outcome for our efforts.”
Helping greatly on Saturday will be the Don Bosco Columbiettes #7784 of Newton.
“Bridgeway helps a lot of people with rehabilitation and helps patients learn how to cope in the community again,” said Pat Keegan, Immediate Past President of the Columbiettes. “We are a group of Catholic women who raise money to give to charities, as well as do other projects."
She said Bridgeway is both a charity and a community project.
“We learned how a raised garden would better serve the programs at Bridgeway," Keegan said. "As Columbiettes, we always look for others to help and felt they were a good group to give our help to. We look forward to the work we will do on Saturday.”
“We are so grateful to Pat and the Columbiettes Auxiliary understanding the work we do and for reaching out and offering this support,” Piagesi-Zett said.