By Mr. Derek Gean (Leonard Wood)June 16, 2016
If you have visited Davidson Fitness Center this spring, you have probably noticed the improved flowerbeds and intricate designs among the plants.
In fact, Willie Short, chief of sports and fitness, said DFC staff members have been getting a lot compliments about their flowerbeds.
"It's outstanding," Short said as he showed off the designs.
The improved flowerbeds are not just any regular flowerbeds. A lot of thought and care has gone into them, as they are designed to honor fallen service members, Soldiers and their Families.
Allene Hodges, a DFC custodian, had been tasked with caring for the flowerbeds. She said the beds were poorly designed, and DFC staff members lacked the knowledge to properly care for them. One day while working the beds, DFC patron John Olson approached her and offered his assistance.
An expert in horticulture, Olson, a General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital employee and engineer, offered her suggestions to replant the flowerbeds in a way to improve the appearance of the facility and the plant life.
From that moment, the duo became a team with a mission in mind. Hodges had the desire to learn to make the flowerbeds the best they could be, and Olson was willing to share his knowledge, time and resources to make the improvements.
"I (told) John that I wanted to show appreciation to our military personnel and their Families for risking their lives for our freedom, keeping us safe and some even giving the ultimate sacrifice," Hodges said.
Taking Hodges' idea into account, Olson was able to help her craft a plan to plant the flowerbeds in such a way to honor the Fort Leonard Wood community. Using rose bushes, tulips, hyacinths and even cactus plants, among many others; Hodges's vision and Olson's expertise resulted in a new "work of art."
"The flowers on the front and sides are for all of the Soldiers who take care of our country each and every day," Hodges said. "This gives us a chance to give back just a small fraction of our appreciation for what they provide for our country and to give them the opportunity to breathe the fresh air and enjoy the services we provide."
In the middle of the flowerbeds are three crosses, which are designed to honor the fallen.
"(The crosses are for the) heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and (memorialize) those whom we are not able to say thank you to," she said.
Olson said when he first encountered the flowerbeds, he saw the need for improvement. Hodges took him to meet with Short. Short then purchased many of the materials they needed to make the improvements.
They began the project in July 2015 and completed the majority of the planting by October. The goal was to plant the flowers in such a way the intent would be visible this spring.
"For me, it was a dedication to (the troops)," Olson said. He said, with his background in engineering, years of working with plants and utilizing skills he learned from his mother as a horticulture expert, he was glad he was able to give back to the community.
A work in progress, Hodges and Olson are still working and planning to make further improvements in the future. As a North Carolina native, Hodges said she didn't know much about growing plants in Missouri but thanks to Olson's tutelage, she is getting a lot better at caring for the plants.
"I can now take care of the flowers, thanks to the knowledge and wisdom that Mr. Olson passed down to me," Hodges said.
Short said for the little money spent on the project, the results are phenomenal.
"John did a great job on his design, "Short said.
Jeffrey Barrett, fitness facility manager, said he is amazed at the dedication and hard work DFC staff members provide for Fort Leonard Wood military Families.
"We all strive on a daily basis to provide outstanding services and raise the bar on Fort Leonard Wood, and this is a perfect example of just that," Barrett said. "I could not be more proud of the team's accomplishment. Their contributions mean so much to the Fort Leonard Wood community. They were working tirelessly to get this stuff done. It's beautiful out here. This is an example of how we can use our community to do better things for each of our facilities, our organizations, our departments and all the people who work in them."