DONNA WIGGINS interviewed by Melanie Crownover photographed by Joe Worthem
This summer, Diversicare nursing home administrator Donna Wiggins brought joy to elderly residents by sharing crops from her fiveacre garden with them.
Q: What led you to bring the garden to work? A: I’ve only been administrator here a year, but I’ve been in long-term care since 1986. I’d seen this kind of activity work at another facility, just not like this.
Q: What did the residents do with the crops? A: It was something different every week. We shelled peas, snapped beans, made tomato sandwiches and more. I would pick a truckload of something about 5 in the morning before I came to work and have a line of people waiting for me at the door to see what I’d brought.
Q: How big was the reaction? A: We started in June with shucking and silking corn. You wouldn’t think that would be a big event, but it drew out people who normally stay in bed and don’t participate in group activities. It ended up a three-day event instead of one because they had such a ball. That first day I brought 400 stalks. The next day I brought more and then more, until they’d cleaned 2,000 ears of corn. We let them boil some and shared the rest with the staff and community.
Q: Why do you think this appeals to residents? A: It’s a tie to something familiar that reminds them of home, something from their former life that they can remember while they’re doing it. It’s also a work-related activity that makes them feel more productive. We figured it would probably draw more women since that was a job they usually handled back when they were young, so we were surprised by how many men came out. They were all smiling the whole time they were working.
Q: Will you do it again? A: I’m already planning to plant a little more of everything next summer to bring in enough.
64 INVITATION TUPELO | November 2017