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Floyd and Barbara Joliet - Two Wonderful Examples of our Amazing Volunteers!

Nikki Patrick, The Morning Sun

Photo by Sean Steffen, The Morning Sun

Barbara and Floyd Joliet in front of the Healing Garden.

People don’t come to a hospital because they’re happy and healthy, but because they’re ill and suffering. Their loved ones are worried about them, and their doctors, nurses and hospital staff are all working hard to help them get well.

Floyd Joliet, Girard Medical Center volunteer, decided that what his hospital needed was a healing garden.

“My wife, Barbara, are on the board of directors for Hospital Auxiliaries of Kansas, and as part of the criteria for an auxiliary to obtain the Gold Award, they ask what your auxiliary has done for your hospital,” Joliet said.

There was a narrow space that was created when the new addition to the hospital was constructed, and Joliet decided it would be just right for the project.

“I wanted a quiet place without cars going by, and in the middle of the building is perfect,” he said. “We don’t have a chapel here, but now we have our Healing Garden.”

The garden was dedicated during a Girard Chamber of Commerce coffee Oct. 4 at the hospital.

“It’s been about 14 months from early planning to now,” Joliet said.

He admitted that his “perfect place” posed a few problems.

“The space is 80 feet long and 15 feet wide and that’s a challenge,” Joliet said. “What could we plant here, a spaghetti garden?”

Furthermore, the soil wasn’t exactly conducive to growing anything except the toughest weeds, including some impressive four-foot-tall thistles.

“It was construction soil, packed down,” said Jacob Weber, K-State District Extension horticulturist and Joliet’s mentor.

“This all started when we took Master Gardener classes from Jake,” said Barbara Joliet.

Her husband said that it was “like wrestling an octopus” to clean construction debris from the space and kill the weeds. After that, 550 bags of top soil, each weighing 40 pounds, were brought in and Girard High School student volunteers spread the soil about 10 to 12 inches deep in the space.

Plant selection was also a challenge.

“There are 76 plants, which means 76 holes,” Joliet said.

Included are hosta, daisies, boxwood, sky pencil holly, blue carpet juniper, crepe myrtle and double knock-out roses.

“We needed an area that would be low maintenance that could take the drought,” Joliet said.

Weber advised him that the juniper can take Kansas heat, but must be in a well-drained area.

“If water stands on those junipers, it will kill them,” he said.

The knock-out roses are tough and take little care, but are thorny.

“Floyd put them in the back so they won’t be out and bite people,” Weber said.

Basically, he said, the volunteers will need to watch the plants in the garden for several years because some of them may not work out.

“A garden is never finished,” the horticulturist said.

Other focal points in the garden are a fountain and a cement healing angel.

“When this was begun, employees kept asking about a fountain,” Mrs. Joliet said. “Then they said that they already had a fountain which had been at a building in Frontenac.”

Her husband said the fountain had been made by the GMC engineering department 9 years ago, but had been sitting unused for the past five years.

“After a new pump, fittings, some line repair and several quarts of CLR, we were up and running,” he said. “The sound of running water is so soothing.”

Hospital CEO Michael Payne said that the only argument he had with Joliet over the garden was about the angel.

“I wanted it to be the Archangel Michael,” Payne said. “He said it needed to be a healing angel.”

But he’s very pleased with the garden and the work done by GMC volunteers.

“If we had to pay our volunteers for what they do, it would cost us $65,000 a year,” Payne said.

The hospital would have also paid nearly five times as much for the Healing Garden if the volunteers hadn’t accepted Joliet’s proposal to take on the project.

“It was originally planned to have a garden in that spot, and the hospital said it would cost $15,000 to have a professional garden put in,” Joliet said. “They asked if we could take it on, and it cost around $3,000 to $3,200.”

That was thanks to all the volunteers, hospital staff, including engineering department workers Justin Pride, Pat Holt, Derrick Crumpacker, Will Holt and Billy Cochran, and assistance from area businesses, including In the Garden, Ace Hardware of Girard and the Cement Yard.

“This garden was a combined effort by a lot of people,” Joliet said.

The best thing is that the Healing Garden is being well used by families, staff and patients.

“Sometimes operating room people are in the OR for 10 hours, and when they get out, they go to the Healing Garden and just sit,” Joliet said. “It’s not unusual to see ambulatory patients trailing IVs going out to the garden.”

“It would be a good place for a small wedding,” his wife added.

Weber noted that a garden is never really finished, and there are still a few touches Joliet would like to put in, such as hanging baskets, more plants and some large pieces of decorative rock.

The next volunteer gardening project will probably be the Senior Behavioral Health Department and, after that, Joliet just might take on GMC’s four area clinics.

“This hospital is something to be so proud of,” he said. “There are no stranger here. When you are here, you are family.”


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