Marcus Benoit is looking forward to the day that he can put his hands in the soil at a new wheelchair accessible garden plot at the Community Gardens in Stephenville.
He sees it as an opportunity for his family to do an outdoor activity together because being in a wheelchair limits the numbers of things he can get involved in.
“I’m really looking forward to this, I know it’s going to be fun,” he said.
Lion Erle Barrett said the club is initially starting off with four of these wheelchair accessible four-foot by eight-foot garden plots, for which two people, including Benoit, have already expressed an interest.
He said the building materials for these and other raised plots came about as the result of a $6,000 provincial government health and wellness grant for the Stephenville Community Gardens.
Some Lions members are pitching in by offering their time to construct these wheelchair accessible plots.
Benoit plans to grow things like corn, carrots, tomatoes and onions. With the Community Gardens only a short wheelchair ride from his home, his mom Anne Benoit thinks he’ll be spending lots of time checking on his crops.
Meanwhile, his dad Herman Benoit has his own regular plot at the Community Gardens and will be into it for his second year, as well as helping his son. Marcus will also get help from his cousin Annika Benoit-Jansson and his mom said she’ll be around as well, although she admits not having a green thumb.
“It’s also an opportunity for me to get out there and meet people, socialize and be included,” Marcus said.
Anne said her son, who has Cockayne Syndrome – a neurological progressive disorder, is very sociable.
He ended up in a wheelchair at the age of eight years and is now 20 years of age, but still likes to be doing what everyone else is doing. He’s an avid Playstation gamer.
In addition to the wheelchair accessible garden beds, 20 raised beds, at two feet in height and measuring three-foot by four-foot, are also being put in this spring for special plants, such as strawberries, raspberries, herbs, rhubarb and any small fruit and herb.
Barrett said this will help in leaving the larger plots for different root crops. Another 10 large five-foot by 20-foot plots are being added this year, bringing the total number of plots up to 55 from the original 22 they started with at the onset of the Community Gardens back in 2010.
He said 47 people have already spoken an interest for plots and he said anyone wanting plots, which go for a minimal price, should act fast. Persons interested can contact Barrett at 283-2484 or Dave Rex at 643-2655.
Barrett said while it’s mostly Lions members that have been doing the work on the Community Gardens, it’s certainly open to anyone in the community who wants to come and help out in an aspect.
In addition to the Lions, The Community Gardens is supported in-kind by the Town of Stephenville and College of the North Atlantic.
Barrett said those who have their own plots range from youth to seniors and he said if school kids want to plant a plot the Lions would love to see that. He said that some of the plots are used by the Lions to grow items used in meals at their regular Community Café.
He said there is a growing interest in the garden plots and when you look at a community the size of Stephenville, he feels having 55 plots is very encouraging.