'Healing Garden' provides nurturing environment to help recovering WTU Soldiers
Wiesbaden American Red Cross volunteer Puja Gellerman works with Sgt. Jeremie Hottel (from left), Spc. Scott Spearritt and Sgt. Samuel Frazier of Wiesbaden's Warrior Transition Unit on the "Healing Garden" at the Recycling and Re-Use Center on Clay Kaserne.

WIESBADEN, Germany - The healing process takes many forms.

For some recovering Soldiers in Wiesbaden's Warrior Transition Unit that includes nurturing a "healing garden" chock-full of sprouting carrots, flowers and other plants and vegetables.

A collaborative effort between the Red Cross, Warrior Transition Unit and Recycling/Re-Use Center, the garden provides a place where the WTU Soldiers can relax, play a role in contributing to a community service project and watch as their efforts bear fruit -- or vegetables as the case may be.

"This started from a personal interest," said Wiesbaden American Red Cross health and safety chairman Puja Gellerman. The licensed occupational therapist and community volunteer said, as an active gardener "back home" in the United States, she had past experience using a similar healing garden while working at an inpatient acute rehabilitation hospital in Washington, D.C., to help patients recover from brain injuries and strokes -- "to work on their different deficits whether it's cognitive or motor challenges. The idea is to find something that brings meaning and purpose to their daily lives.

"Just getting your hands dirty can be very therapeutic," Gellerman added.

"The key is lasting memories that really mean a lot," she said, pointing to one patient who planted herbs in his room and then "came back with a plant for us."

"There's been a lot of support for the project," said Jana Fullmer, Wiesbaden American Red Cross station manager, praising the help provided by the Directorate of Public Works staff in finding space and resources for the healing garden.

Fullmer also said she has witnessed the enthusiasm among the WTU Soldiers involved in the garden. "They are really finding an interest in it. It's very relaxing -- a nice way to take a break. They want to do some cooking classes eventually."

"I've been in WTU since April," said Sgt. Jeremie Hottel. "This has been a chance to get away from everything -- helping things grow."

"This helps normalize life" for the recovering Soldiers," said Lynn Bentz-Fontaine, a WTU social worker. "I always like to find creative ways to get involved in the community and anything that helps distract from some of their physical and mental health issues is good."

"The staff at the Recycling Center have been awesome," said Gellerman. "They've even added their own flowers -- helping create an atmosphere of respite there which is kind of nice.

"For me, it's been a phenomenal experience," she said, explaining that while the healing garden may not be everyone, even if she can help one Soldier, "it's valuable."

Gellerman and Fullmer encouraged others to get involved where they can.

"I think everyone should explore opportunities to give back. It's rewarding," Gellerman said.

"If you are interested in volunteering, it's just a great way to give back to the community," said Fullmer. "Definitely, come and see us (Red Cross is located in Building 1206 on Clay Kaserne, or email Wiesbaden@redcross.org)."

The next time you visit Wiesbaden's Recycling/Re-Use Center on Clay Kaserne, take a moment to admire the flourishing efforts of those who helped create and maintain the Healing Garden.

Page last updated Tue June 17th, 2014 at 00:00