New garden at Landstuhl Fisher House
Jess Giles, a 16-year-old Boy Scout in Kaiserslautern, Germany, stands with his completed Eagle Scout project, a revamped garden for wounded soldiers and their families at the Fisher House on Landstuhl Regional Medica Center in Germany.

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Boy Scouts often are known throughout local communities for their good deeds, and a 16-year-old Kaiserslautern scout is no different.

Jess Giles, a member of Troop 84 and a football player at Kaiserslautern High School, recently finished a four-month project geared toward making life for wounded warriors and their families using Landstuhl's Fisher House No. 2 a little more relaxing.

"For my Eagle Scout project, I knew I wanted to help our wounded military members somehow, and the Fisher House seemed like a good place to start," Jess said.

Jess met Fisher House Manager Kathy Gregory in February and found a garden sitting area in need of more than a little maintenance. He raised $2,000 to expand the 12-foot-by-10-foot plain garden into a 30-foot-by-22-foot lush, accommodating space complete with solar path lights and a solar water fountain.

Jess said he noticed that the previous garden was wide open, provided no privacy, and was not a relaxing or peaceful area.

"I wanted to make the sitting area larger and expand it so that wheelchair patients could easily get to the area and enjoy it with their families," he said. "I also wanted to put in outside rows of shrubs, which would grow and provide a natural barrier and privacy fence. I wanted flowers to brighten the area and a water source to provide soothing sounds. I wanted patients and their families to be able to walk through the garden entrance and find peace, quiet, beauty and a place where they can reflect and begin their healing."

The teen used the Internet to research plants that required minimal upkeep, needed little sun since the area is shaded, and could thrive even through the sometimes "cold and blustery" German winters.

"It will take a couple of years for the shrubs to grow up, but I think the final garden has achieved what I had in mind," he said of the area that is now surrounded by plants on all sides - plants Jess hopes will eventually grow to enclose the area for an even more relaxing environment for the troops and their families.

The Fisher House held a dedication ceremony for the garden Monday. Retired Army Lt. Gen. John A. Dubia, a trustee of the Fisher House Foundation, was on hand to extend his thanks to Jess for his work on the garden.

According to his mother, Jess has been one to help others since he was a small child.
"He's a very open-minded person and very accepting of people," said Melody Giles-Crist, who works in ophthalmology at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. "He has always tried to do the right thing, even if it meant more work."

This project certainly meant a lot of work, as Jess spent more than 40 hours planning and physically expanding and improving the Fisher House garden. More than 20 other people took shifts over two weekends in mid-June to help Jess with the manual labor. And according to the Fisher House manager, the end result was well worth the time and effort.

"The project really enhances the side of the house. It's an inviting place for the families," said Gregory, who has managed both Landstuhl Fisher Houses, serving an average of 100 families each month in 19 rooms, since their openings in 2001 and 2002.

There are currently 38 Fisher Houses with five more under construction located on military bases in the United States and Europe. They are "comfort homes" designed to allow families a free place to stay near the medical center where a loved one is receiving treatment for an unexpected illness, disease or injury.

While staying at a Fisher House, families share a common living room, dining room and kitchen, which, Gregory said, encourages camaraderie. The families can find support in others who are experiencing similar situations, but, she said, "sometimes people just need to be on their own, and (the garden) is the perfect place."

For more information on the Fisher House, visit www.fisherhouse.org.

Page last updated Tue July 22nd, 2008 at 07:19