We interviewed Tracy Riley, former employee at KW Habilitation (KWH) on the beautiful raised flower bed that her late partner Rodger Dekraker built for the people we support. Here’s what she had to say:
KWH: When was it built and who was it built for?
Tracy: The raised flower bed was built during the spring of 2020 at the start of COVID-19 to keep the people we support busy as community participation opportunities were limited due to COVID-19. I was a former staff member at a day option location and moved to inclusive living supports at the start of COVID-19. My background is in recreation and leisure studies and I’m a big believer in keeping the people I support busy with activity and to give them something to look forward to. We started that first year’s garden all from seed!
KWH: What inspired Rodger to build this?
Tracy: Rodger was a master carpenter and I asked him to build an accessible garden table for the people we support through Inclusive Living. It was mainly built to offer the opportunity to the people we support to participate in the household gardening and I think he did an amazing job. It’s built out of cedar and is meant to last!
KWH: What kind of relationship did your husband have with KWH and the people we support?
Tracy: Rodger would call the people we support everyday via FaceTime to say hello in those early days of COVID-19. Rodger was a Fire Captain and Sean (he passed away a few months after Rodger did) always looked forward to his calls. I would walk in for a shift and the first thing Sean would say is “you know who we have to call?” Rodger would take him on a daily tour of the fire department on each call to look at the trucks on the inside and outside. Rodger also had a construction business and would call Sean when he was at a job site and show him his work or the machinery.
KWH: What has it offered to the people we support?
Tracy: In the first two years, the garden table was actively used. I built a corner sensory garden with water, rocks and beautiful smelling plants and herbs. A few people would water daily and maintain with weeding. One in particular would pick and eat all the strawberries before anyone else could get their hands on one.
KWH: What kind of plants are grown in the raised flower bed?
Tracy: Over in the sensory area, we have a lot of herbs that smell like lavender, sage, and lamb’s ear. We also grow herbs like basil and parsley which are a good hit because the people we support use them for cooking sometimes. For vegetables, this year we did tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and brussel sprouts. We also grow flowers and put some marigolds in because those usually keep the bugs away. The first year we did a pumpkin but it took up too much room! The flowerbed comes to life at night as the decorations including an owl and car light up!
KWH: How is Rodger’s legacy alive through the use of them?
Tracy: My mother and I resurrected the garden table this spring; a year after my partner Rodger had passed. We planted everything in the spring, and now my mother comes weekly to maintain it and give the staff and people we support tips to upkeep it. She’s a senior and former nurse and she just wants to give back.
On behalf of KW Habilitation, we would like to say a huge thank you to Tracy Riley and her mother for upkeeping this beautiful raised flowerbed that Rodger Dekraker built for the people we support.