Staff members at Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH) gathered in the new Wellness Garden to enjoy a bounty of summer produce, learn how to care for plants, and taste some of the first harvest.
Vegetables from the garden will be “prescribed” to patients who face food insecurity when they are discharged. The patients will leave the hospital with fresh, organic, ready to eat fruits and vegetables selected to meet their nutritional needs by staff dieticians.
However, the garden was created to provide more than physical nourishment. It also serves as a sanctuary for hospital staff, who plant, weed and harvest the garden on a voluntary basis.
The garden is the culmination of a year-long effort on the part of Zack Couzens, who graduated from high school this spring and dedicated his Eagle Scout project to the heroes of Northern Westchester Hospital. He and his fellow scouts, classmates, family, and more than 30 volunteers built the 27 raised beds that comprise the garden. He also created a GoFundMepage that raised more than $3500 for the project, double his original fundraising goal.
Zack was inspired to give back to the hospital because of the care it provided for his family. In March 2020, his parents were among the first Covid-19 cases in Putnam County to be admitted to NWH. In the harrowing weeks that followed, his mother was released, but his father was put on a ventilator and spent three weeks in the hospital. Zack, who was born 10 weeks early, weighing only two pounds, eight ounces, also owes his life to the care he received at Northern Westchester.
“The Hospital has given so much to my family, saving both my parents’ lives, and my own,” he says. “Fortunately, everyone recovered, in large part, due to the extraordinary care my family received. My hope is that when people look back at the Covid-19 pandemic, this garden–dedicated to the heroes of Northern Westchester Hospital–will remind them of how the hospital’s staff worked tirelessly to keep the community members well.”
Northern Westchester Hospital leaders recognized that many staff were themselves recovering from their experience with the pandemic. A Wellness, Recognition and Resilience Committee was formed to further support NWH providers during this unprecedented time and the idea of a Wellness Garden.
“The idea quickly grew beyond helping staff,” says Rebecca Martin, a committee member and the senior director of Dining Services at the Hospital. “We realized that if we built a garden of raised beds, we would be able to grow organic vegetables for the community.”
Story courtesy of Northern Westchester Hospital