Miller APSO members build planters for Cordova Health and Rehabilitation

The Miller APSO team built seed boxes for year-round use by the residents of the Cordova nursing facility. (Miller APSO)

A little inspiration, a little “elbow grease” and a lot of care makes a big difference for seniors living at Cordova Health and Rehabilitation.

Last summer, some members of the Alabama Energy Services Organization (APSO) learned that the treatment facility was trying to encourage its residents to enjoy outdoor activities. Recognizing the community’s need, members of the Miller Steam Plant APSO branch offered to help.

“Many of us here have had family members or friends at Cordova Health,” said Tracy Pope, support team leader and president of Miller APSO. “We’ve worked on other projects for them, we’ve trimmed bushes, cleaned up the yard and made a bench. They brought to our attention ideas to have residents meet in the courtyard outside.’

Wanting to make an immediate impact, Miller Maintenance Specialist Jude Hamilton said Miller APSO members decided to build five large planter boxes to encourage residents to start gardening.

During the planning stage, Hamilton asked residents of Cordova Health and Rehabilitation to recommend the best height for the planters.

“We wanted to make it easier for residents in wheelchairs to access the planters,” said Hamilton, who along with maintenance specialist Leonard Littleton took measurements of the boxes.

Miller Compliance and Support Manager Bernard McGrew encouraged employee involvement and the use of sustainable materials. Maintenance specialist Willie Jones, assistant plant operator Dion Oliver, designer Ernest Tubbs and Hamilton built the planters. Using leftover paint and sealant, they decorated the pots. Materials specialist Lisa Bomballier added the finishing touches: laminated signs attributing Miller APSO’s handiwork.

They shopped for soil, fertilizer and plants at a home improvement store.

“We wanted residents to get instant gratification,” Hamilton said with a smile. “When we went to pick plants, they had a lot in the starting size. But we bought plants that were taller. We wanted to add some plants that were at the height of the residents. That’s why we settled on planters no taller than 2 feet so that less mobile people can reach them. The planters were delivered and installed at the site.

“Miller APSO gave about $600 and 160 volunteer hours to this project and it was worth every minute,” Pope said.

“Let Our Family Be Your Family”

Pam Taylor, activities coordinator at Cordova Health and Rehabilitation, said residents and staff are excited about the new planters, which make the yard “nice and homey,” adding to everyone’s enjoyment of being outside. “Their residents enjoy it and their families love it.”

Residents picked the pumpkin and gave it to the staff to cook. Perhaps most importantly, Taylor said, plants give residents something to do.

“They took over by keeping the plants watered. They loved it,” said Taylor, who has worked at the facility for 15 years. “The pots are beautiful in our yard. Our residents pulled the tomatoes and peppers and ate them and divided them among them as a group. As hot as it was this summer, they watered it and took very good care of it.

“They want to help,” she said. “Some of them may not take just one glass of water to water the plants. Everyone took responsibility to care for them, for the produce that came from them. They loved having it – it was just part of the home.

“Our motto is ‘Let our family be your family,'” Taylor said. “We try to make it as home environment as possible, so that helped with that. We’ve wanted some of these pots for a long, long time. Miller APSO has been so good to us.”

Pope said those efforts will continue: “The next thing we want to do is help build another wheelchair ramp. We want to do things to help them.”

This story originally appeared in Powergrams, the company’s magazine for employees and retirees.

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