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Nursing home Veterans enjoy butterfly garden

Oct 20, 2023

A Community Living Center (CLC) is a VA nursing home where Veterans may stay for a short time or for the rest of their life. For many, adjusting to their new living arrangements can prove challenging, so Bay Pines VA and its community partners do all they can to cultivate an environment filled with comfort and healing.

In early July, members of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary (DAV) 18 came to view their shared dedication to serving those who served.

“When you’re standing in the garden, it’s just like you’re in God’s world,” said DAV 18 Senior Vice Commander Edyth Bradford. “The outdoor air, vibrant flowers, tranquil butterflies and the soothing sound of water creates a very peaceful space. It gives these Veterans a chance to see something beautiful.”

Pictured above, Edyth Bradford (far right) joins recreation therapist Jenny Campbell and others for the rededication of the fountain and garden area.

Bradford led the charge to ensure the fountain in the Butterfly Garden in the CLC was restored. And thanks to a generous monetary donation from DAV 18, her hope was realized.

“I’m a WWII Army brat,” Bradford said. “I became involved in this organization because I must start giving back. It feels wonderful to have a positive impact on the lives of people who have given us so much.”

Bradford wasn’t alone in her quest to beautify the garden. When CLC resident Norman Barley noticed the fountain wasn’t the only area in need of repair, the Marine Corps Veteran decided to do something about it.

“About a year ago, I was out in the garden and I observed a lack of butterflies. That’s what got me started. I got a couple books and did some research. I started by planting the milkweed and it continued growing from there,” said Barley, who led the revitalization efforts and worked closely with recreational therapists to beautify the space.

“As recreation therapists, we’re tasked with inspiring Veterans to do more than they thought they were capable of,” said Bay Pine’s CLC recreation therapist, Jenny Campbell. “When Veterans come to us, our team really tries to meet them at their level then get them to a place where they’re amazed by what they achieve.”

For Barley, his work in the garden is a continuation of other creative ventures that help soothe his mind. But his dedication also serves to inspire his fellow Veterans.

“We will often share Mr. Barley’s accomplishments, and when people see what he’s done, it says they can have a similar experience,” Campbell said. “He’s such an active participant in our community and it’s truly an honor to be able to help him cultivate something that brings him joy.”

In addition to coming to view the impact of their contribution, members of DAV 18 also spread some early holiday cheer. Residents of the CLC experienced Christmas in July as the dedicated Veteran advocates distributed gift bags filled with non-skid socks, puzzle books, toiletries and coupon books for the canteen at the medical center.

“I started Christmas in July about four years ago and I’m happy to be back after the COVID precautions were relaxed,” Bradford added. “I believe the work we do and the work VA does is all for the purpose of giving back. I’ll do whatever I can to support that.”

butterfly garden CLC