The SOG Story2023-03-27T02:08:36+00:00

The SOG Story

March 2022

SOG 2022

In March 2022 we had to say a sad goodbye to our Garden Manager, Chelsea Dozois. Before she left, Chelsea organized and led a SOG Book Club, a session on nutrition with Elycia Thompson, and a second on-line symposium. We were still under restrictions so our Book Club was virtual. Chelsea chose the books Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and To Speak for the Trees by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. We had excellent discussions led by Chelsea who made sure the participants each had a copy of the book. Funds from the New Horizons grant funded the purchase of the books. The highlight of the symposium was a talk by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. We also had sessions on vermicomposting with the founders of The Box for Life, native wildflowers, soil amelioration, and herbs.

We warmly welcomed Rita Moore as our Garden Helper and are grateful for her willingness to dig right in.

We established a connection with the indigenous seniors at Madawan Lodge on Carmen Avenue through the Gignal Non-profit Housing Corporation.

Thanks to the organic seedling order completed by Chelsea, Rita and Betty were able to pick up hundreds of seedlings from Northern Seeds in Farrellton, Quebec. Seedlings were donated to the seniors at Clementine Avenue, Madawan Lodge, the Bronson Centre, The Olde Forge, Ottawa Community housing residents downtown, and to seniors in their homes. Our Garden Coach led numerous Zoom sessions and submitted articles to Down to Earth.

We secured the services of Ivan Plotnikov to design our new logo and build our website.

March 2021

SOG 2021

The SOG Gardening Coach organized a Gardening Symposium 2021 to draw seniors into thinking about gardening as spring approached and to broaden horizons about gardening possibilities! This took place on Wednesday afternoons from 1:30-2:30 from February 24 to March 31st with a number of short presentations:

  • Designing an Edible Landscape by Chelsea Dozois, SOG Gardening Coach
  • Supporting Your Immune System in the Garden by Elycia Kellett, Nutritionist,
  • Container Gardens with Rob Danforth, one of SOG’s founding members
  • Making Your Own Herbal Teas by Kayoki Whiteduck
  • Pollinator Gardens by Rob Danforth, Organic gardening Guru & former presenter for COG OSO’s
  • Urban Organic Gardening Seminars
  • Square Foot Gardens by Chelsea Dozois

This Symposium included horticultural therapy activities supported by the delivery of Surprise Garden Bags before the event containing supplies and materials to go with each Symposium session. The Symposium was organized through Event Bright and after all expenses were covered, netted $860! An amazing accomplishment by our SOG Manager!

SOG was successful in receiving a grant from New Horizons for Seniors for $25,000 so planning began immediately for implementation of the 2021-22 Strategic Plan with Chelsea Dozois continuing as SOG Manager adding Rob Danforth as Gardening Coach to carry out the mostly virtual ZOOM workshops with phone and email advice offered as needed. The following locations were among those assisted with gardening workshops and advice: Bronson Community Centre, Pinecrest Community Health Centre, Connexions Center, Outaouais & Pontiac, Brain Health Group, NROCRC-Nepean Resource Center & Related Communities, Ottawa Community Housing Building, 395 Somerset, Wakefield Lapeche Community Center, OCISO Ottawa Immigration Services Seniors’ Program. Seniors in each location indicated the seeds and seedlings they would like to grow. The supplies and necessaries were purchased and delivered to each centre from which participating seniors were able to do a ‘one-stop-shop’!

SOG has been working on a strategic plan to build not only its gardening programs for seniors but also to strengthen the administration. Founder and Director Margaret Townson retires during this year in favour of our new Director, Betty Weil! Welcome aboard Betty!

In November, 2021 we received confirmation that our OCF application was successful and we received $10,000 to rebuild our website and produce a SOG guide. Thanks to our Garden Coach and our Director Emeritus we had the institutional memory to put the principal workings of SOG in writing for future participants. Thank you Rob and Margaret for this tremendous effort.

March 2020

SOG 2020

The SOG program during the non-growing season consisted of horticultural therapy activities to stay in contact with the seniors in our various groups.

Unfortunately, in February-March, the COVID-19 pandemic began, forcing the cancellation of in-person programming.  SOG pivoted quickly to continue to offer programming. Virtual Zoom-based workshops were set up with Gloucester 50+, the Bronson Hub, SNMC, Brain Health Group and SNMC.  To support gardeners at OCH buildings who were not able to participate virtually, the SOG Manager got a local Scouts group (104th Ottawa) to volunteer to grow seedlings for participants in the scouts’ homes.  12 scouting families volunteered and produced over 700 seedlings.  Remaining funds from OCF and the Seniors’ Community Grant were put to use to provide seeds, soil, pots, and grow lamps.  Some of these supplies were delivered to seniors who were stuck at home as well, allowing over 100 seniors to grow their own seedlings or receive seedlings once they were grown.  At 395 Somerset Ave, twenty-six very isolated seniors received large pots, soil, fertilizer and seedlings to grow peppers and tomatoes on their balconies.  Seniors’ Group Jami Omar participants (25) received seedlings, Grow Containers from the Growing Connection, soil, fertilizer and seeds.  Other seniors received individual supplies as they requested.

Online workshops included seed starting, taking and rooting cuttings, growing vegetables from kitchen scraps, compost, weed identification, potato buckets, repotting and more.  As well, the SOG manager produced a number of you tube videos on garden topics which were shared with seniors and others.

In June 2020, our Gardening Coach, Christine moved on, but hired two Garden coaches to fill the position: Chelsea and Brigitte in order to manage the 2020 growing season program. The groups involved are listed below.

Model 1:  Community Groups

Russell Manor-1909 Russell Rd, OCH, 1455 Clementine Blvd, OCH Building, 300 Lacasse, Ottawa Community Housing

Gloucester 50+ Centre,  Bronson Community Centre- Dalhousie Courtyard Community Gardens, Ottawa Community Immigration Services Organization- Diverse Seniors Group/Jewish Family Services, OCH Building, 205 Gladstone- Blair House, OCH Building, 125 McLeod – Brooke Towers, OCH Building, 395 Somerset, Nepean Rideau Osgoode Community Resource Centre (NROCRC) Tanglewood Seniors’ Group, Brain Health Seniors’ Group (NROCRC),  South Nepean Muslim Centre (SNMC, Barrhaven, Seniors’ Group Jami Omar Mosque, West Ottawa Christian Community Church Gardens.

These groups were scheduled for a full SOG program but due to the pandemic, none of the Ottawa Community Housing groups were allowed to meet and most did not have internet connection for ZOOM workshops.

Model 2: Residential Backyard Gardeners

Grouped for meetings, shared presentations:    East Orleans and Celebration Ave Garden- Friends

The pandemic in 2019-2021 presented SOG with a number of challenges not unlike many community groups. Seniors had the added challenges of learning not only to use technology for communication but also the challenge of comfort level and overcoming fear of dangers of technology! Many overcame these concerns but several diminished their involvement due to fear of technology. ZOOM fatigue also loomed high on the horizon so phone calls and deliveries which are labor-intensive provided some relief. The addition of Surprise Garden Bags delivered to seniors’ homes in Model 2 were the most popular aspects of the program and brought a few more seniors back online to participate in a new way. Seniors in their homes who have no devices and no access to the internet are cut off from communications in a special way. One could say it is self-inflicted but sometimes the challenge is financial… the cost of devices, internet connection, technical assistance costs and service when things go wrong and the fear of having any tech experts in home to assist are all obstacles to be considered.

Gardening Groups also suffered a number of challenges. OCH buildings were not allowed to have active gardens due to the possibility of COVID spread. Some ZOOM events attracted a goodly number of participants however other seniors simply went into hibernation from technology!

March 2019

SOG 2019

In February 2019, SOG was informed it had received a grant of $24,400 from New Horizons for Seniors for the duration of March 2019-March 2020. The purpose of the grant was to support volunteerism among seniors involved with SOG.

This ultimately allowed SOG to support the following sites.

The garden sites were (all in Ottawa, ON):

  • 1909 Russell Ave; 1445 Clementine Ave;
  • 125 McLeod St; 205 Gladstone Ave;
  • 300 Lacasse Ave; 395 Somerset West Ave;
  • 3020 Woodroffe Ave and 3123 Carp Rd (Carp, On).

The first 6 sites are located at Ottawa Community Housing communities and the last 2 are located at community gardens.

The non-garden sites were:

  • Ottawa Carleton Immigration Services Organization (OCISO),
  • 959 Wellington Ave (facilitated by Diverse Seniors Services, Jewish Family Services, Ottawa),
  • Nepean Rideau Osgoode Community Resource Centre seniors’ group located at 30 Woodfield Drive
  • NROCRC Brain Health Group also located at 30 Woodfield Drive Ottawa.

Overall, 73 volunteers were engaged (including 25 youth from Vincent Massey Public School who helped at 1909 Russell Rd) and 112 participants benefited (who were not volunteers). Volunteers included SOG volunteers, people assisting the seniors at garden sites, garden committee volunteers at sites and volunteers at non-garden site groups who coordinated meetings etc.
Also in 2018, SOG was awarded a grant from the Ottawa Community Foundation. This grant was for $15,000 and expired in March 2020. This grant allowed us to further support the sites above and expand support to 300 Lacasse (as they required a fourth year of support), a project of the Mechanicsville Community garden supporting seniors at the St. Vladimirs’ Community on Stonehurst Ave.

As well, it allowed us to explore an in-home pilot project (Model 2) in which we reached out to seniors living alone in their own homes to provide small group gardening workshops (East Orleans Group and Celebration Avenue Group). The OCF group allowed us to offer programming to the Gloucester 50 plus group (garden workshops), the Bronson Hub (Flo’s Seniors) and the Seniors’ Group Jami Omar in Kanata (through OCISO). Approximately 110 seniors were supported by this grant.

The OCF grant also allowed SOG to engage the services of a Nutritionist (Karen Germann), who provided workshops on nutrition from the garden to many of our sites.

Most importantly, the OCF grant allowed us to develop a “Train the Trainer” workshop model to offer 2 educational workshops to community groups, community developers and others who seek to work with seniors in garden settings. These workshops focused on the logistical, sociological and economic framework of gardening with seniors (which is neglected in general community garden workshops), with a special focus on conflict mitigation, communication and physical support.

In September 2019, SOG was awarded a $4000.00 grant, the Seniors’ Community Grant (Government of Ontario) to provide a winter workshop series 918 workshops) to existing sites. These were offered to OCISO, the Brain Health Group, 300 Lacasse, 1445 Clementine Ave., 1909 Russell Avenue, Bronson Hub, Gloucester 50+Centre, 205 Gladstone, 375 Somerset (an OCH site) and SNMC.

March 2018

SOG 2018

In February 2018, under the Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant (OTF, received in 2017-2018), when Christine Matheson came on board as SOG Manager & Gardening Coach a Program Coordinator was also hired to ease the burden of administrative requirements. The SOG team contacted SOG sites from 2017 and began preparing for the growing season. SOG has a policy of usually working with groups for a three-year cycle: In year One we support all aspects of the gardening season and give supplies generously, in year Two, we reduce the gardening support and donated supplies to some extent and in year Three, we prepare gardening groups to garden autonomously. From year One, we organize Garden Committees to train participants to manage their own decisions around the gardens.

Ultimately, the SOG sites for 2018 were:

  • 3020 Woodroffe Ave, South Nepean Muslim Centre – community gardens (6 gardeners, 2nd year)
  • 1909 Russell Rd, Russell Manor – OCH community garden (20 gardeners, 1st year)
  • 1445 Clementine Ave, Clementine towers – OCH community garden (24 gardeners, 2nd year)
  • 800 St. Laurent – OCH community garden (22 gardeners, 4th and final year)
  • 300 Lacasse – OCH community garden – no gardening this year, 6 gardeners participated in workshops, 2nd year
  • 3123 Carp Rd., West Ottawa Community Church- raised beds built for senior gardeners, workshops given. This group enjoyed SOG’s leadership in 2018 but were well able to garden independently of SOG which is our objective for all gardening groups.
  • 959 Wellington St. W, OCISO (Ottawa Community Immigrant Services) – no garden, indoor workshops 15 gardeners (2nd year)
  • 55 Clary St. Seniors’ Group (Through OCISO) – no garden, indoor workshops 15 gardeners (1st year)
  • Barrhaven Indo-Canadian Seniors group (through OCISO) – no garden, indoor workshops, 50 + participants
  • Wabano Aboriginal Wellness Centre Seniors Circle – 15 + gardeners (3rd and Final Year)

Over 150 participants were recorded for SOG in 2018. Each site received 3-6 workshops given in person by the Program Manager, supported by the Program Coordinator. A new garden site was built at the West Ottawa Christian Community on Carp Road. A final report was prepared for OTF and submitted upon the end date of the grant in October 2018.

March 2017

SOG 2017

This year we offered workshops to multicultural community groups such as the South Nepean Muslim Centre (SNMC), and Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO). We continued our program at Wabano with great success, offering workshops on plant medicines and indigenous plants.

We carried out community gardening at 3 OCH residences: 800 St. Laurent, Clementine Towers, and 300 Lacasse, celebrating diversity and multiculturalism.

Language interpreters and celebrations continued to enhance the social opportunities for seniors to draw closer together with a common theme of gardening. We held a beautiful Recognition Event and a Closing Harvest Ceremony to celebrate our successful year, funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Adele MacKay our SOG Manager and Gardening Coach needed to move on so SOG selected and welcomed Christine Matheson to continue the valuable work with so many seniors.

March 2016

SOG 2016

This year we reached out to 3 multicultural OCH residences, 2 Indigenous centres and Hope Living (Shepherds of Good Hope). We were very happy to have the participation of the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and Odawa Friendship Centre which added a new exciting dimension. We also continued our program in the Outaouais, with volunteer visits at le Manoir de Wakefield.

The multicultural OCH seniors’ residences that were on board for 2016 were: Wellington Towers, Russell Manor, and 800 St. Laurent.The Community Foundation of Ottawa (CFO) contributed to our success throughout the year. We held a Recognition Event for CFO in September, celebrating our growing season with a beautiful drumming performance by the Wabano seniors.

March 2015

SOG 2015

SOG continued under the direction of our horticultural specialist, Adèle McKay, to offer organic gardening workshops and hands-on sessions to seniors in the following locations: OCH Brooke Towers, Russell Manor, 800 St. Laurent; long-term care facilities St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa and Le Manoir de Wakefield; and seniors’ residence Sully Gardens, in Wakefield.

Language interpreters assisted seniors in our multicultural locations. Two vibrant garden celebrations marked the end of the season: one at 800 St. Laurent and a final summer celebration at Sully Gardens. A grant from the Ontario Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship as well as a new fruitful partnership with the Quebec Farmers’ Association made this all possible.

March 2014

SOG 2014

In 2014, we worked in 9 locations, with Adèle McKay joining SOG as horticultural specialist and program manager: This year we added Regina Towers, Russell Manor and 800 St Laurent in the east end as well as Good Companions. We expanded to the non-growing season with horticultural therapy activities to draw the seniors together. We offer a series of photographs as we know that pictures can be worth a thousand words!

Adele and Sue enjoying the aroma of herbs at Longfield Manor in Barrhaven
Planting at the Perley & Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre
Tending the gardens at Russell Manor
Wanda and Guy and their team look after the gardens at Regina Towers assisted by local mascot in front photo!
Planting at Wellington Towers

March 2013

SOG 2013 Pilot Project continues

In 2013, our continuing Pilot projects continued with the two locations above and expanded to The Perley & Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre as well as Wellington Towers and Brooke Manor- both Ottawa Community Housing locations.

We were excited to Introduce organic vegetable and herb gardening to interested seniors in an informal circle with photographs and plants; the seniors who decided to participate took part in short, relaxed tailored ‘hands-on” workshops in planning, purchasing, planting, maintaining, harvesting, and winterizing. Gardens were visited periodically, so we could check on progress, as well as offering advice and assistance when requested. All the seniors and volunteers enjoyed a closing get together to taste some organic snacks, to reflect on their gardening experiences and to begin planning the next growing season. We collected feedback and testimonials from participants to help SOG revise and plan for our program next growing season

March 2012

SOG 2012 Pilot Project

Our 2012 Pilot Project involving one Retirement Home, Unitarian House in Westboro and one Long Term Care facility, Longfield Manor in Barrhaven was very successful and we learned many excellent lessons on how to move forward. We thank both Unitarian House and Longfield Manor seniors and staff for such a wonderful experience.

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