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Hope Clubhouse transforms grounds to feed clients

Hope Clubhouse transforms grounds to feed clients

Hope Clubhouse of Southwest Florida revamped its landscaping on Sunday with the idea that the new trees and plants put into the ground will provide therapy and food for the organization’s clients and staff.

“This is the beginning of something special,” said Michael Daniels, a volunteer since October at the clubhouse. “We give opportunities to special people every day.”

Hope Clubhouse provides support for people in Southwest Florida living with mental illness through work, education, friendships and access to housing in a community setting.

James Wineinger, executive director of the organization, said Hope Clubhouse was started as a voluntary, daytime program in 2007.

“We work on goals, like getting people back to work,” he said, adding that the Fort Myers-based, private and non-profit United Way partner replanted the perimeter and other areas around it’s Broadway Street offices with an eye toward providing beauty, sustainability and nutrition.

The landscaping project, called Permablitz, was put together as a collaborative effort.

Members of the Southwest Florida Permaculture Guild, led by organizer Alex Nikesch, came to the on Hope site with edible plants, fruit trees and nearly two-dozen volunteers and Clubhouse members.

Nikesch, one of the organizers of the Food Forest, a student-run botanical garden on the campus of FGCU, said the Hope garden is the seventh such project for the guild.

“They approached us and we worked on some design ideas,” he said. Nikesch said the garden will have three distinct layers — canopy, herbaceous and ground cover.

Among the species installed Sunday were avocado, mango and black sapote in the canopy layer, cassava and several spinach varieties in the herbaceous layer and sweet potatoes and more spinach in the ground cover layer.

He said the garden, at first, will be a bit high-maintenance. “Eventually, this will be well-shaped,” he said, and will need just some weeding to keep it going. “You’ll be able to walk away from it. And you can eat from it. There are a lot of fruits and vegetables to cook.”

While Hope, the guild and others provided the muscle on Sunday, four area landscaping, gardening and related groups — Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, ECHO Global Farms and Pine Forest Fruit & Flower Farm in North Fort Myers and Fruitscapes Nursery on Pine Island — provided plants and supplies for free or at a discount.

“Members and staff will be taking care of the plants,” Wineinger said. “I think it’s great therapy.”

The proximity of the edible plants was one of the popular points for those who work and cook at the Clubhouse. “If we need lettuce we just have to step outside,” Daniels said.

Daniel’s son, Kyle, 13, joined him in building the gardens on Sunday. “It’s fun. It’s a new experience,” he said., “It’s cool that this will get big some day.”

Wineinger said the landscaping effort will take advantage of every square foot of the property.

“It’s a way to bring people together and about relationships,” he said. “Statistics show that those diagnosed with a mental illness often have poor nutrition and a drastically reduced lifespan. In staying with our Hope Clubhouse mission of creating a place where we can all work together, our new Garden of Hope will be maintained by members and encourage better eating habits and overall wellness.”

About Hope Clubhouse

Hope Clubhouse is a community of support for people living with mental illness in Southwest Florida. Hope Clubhouse offers opportunities for meaningful work, education, friendships and access to housing in a supportive, caring, dignified and respectful community setting. HOPE Clubhouse is a 501(c)3 organization at 3602 Broadway Ave., Fort Myers, Florida 33901. Call (239) 267-1777 or visit www.hopeclubhouse.org to donate or for more information.

For the original story from Michael Braun of the Newspress click here

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