Nutrition and Services for Seniors garden pavilion will preserve memory of Beaumont man’s late wife

Lindy Dennis of Beaumont talks about his late wife, Lelia.

So much more than the harvest of vegetables and the care and labor that goes into growing them, a garden is also a myriad of symbols.

Gardens are soft, tender spaces. They are symbolic retreats, sanctuaries, safe places, sacred spaces and spaces to grow, worship, and appreciate life’s beauty.

These are things that Elaine Shellenberger, executive director for Nutrition and Services for Seniors (NSFS), had in mind when she and the garden committee set out to create the Grow to Share Garden in 2013. The vision for the garden was a place that would not only produce fresh vegetables for the homebound seniors the nonprofit serves, but also a place for volunteers to share the fruits of their labor in helping the garden grow.

“One of the things we found was that building a garden is a slow process,” Shellenberger said.

In January 2015, NSFS approached the Beaumont Rotary Club about the project and Rotarians volunteered labor to help build beds for the garden and a 177-foot-long, 8-foot-tall privacy fence surrounding the property.

Currently on its fourth planting season, Shellenberger said the garden has yielded 4,500 servings of fruits and vegetables.

“We have tomatoes. We have corn, cucumbers, green beans, strawberries, green onions, blueberries and cream peas,” she said. “I don’t know that I can express the joy that I feel about what we’re doing, particularly when we have seniors who call us and write us and say thank you and that they haven’t had fresh vegetables in years.”

The latest addition to the garden will afford seniors and other members of the community a safe place to come and reflect on life’s beauty. NSFS held a ribbon cutting Friday, May 19, to unveil the Lelia Dennis Pavilion.

“I’d love to have events out here. I’d also like to have people from nursing homes and assisted living facilities be able to come out here and enjoy cookies and punch or just to have an outing. It’s so peaceful out here,” Shellenberger said.

Construction of the pavilion began in the fall of 2016. It is named after Lindy Dennis’s late wife, Lelia. Lelia passed away in 2016.

“It brings focus to the memory of my precious wife,” Dennis said. “She was just a very generous person. I was very privileged to be the husband of Lelia. … I want to thank all of you for allowing this to happen to this wonderful wife.”

While she was still living, Dennis created a garden called Lelia’s Eden for his wife on 10 acres on Spurlock Road in Beaumont in 2006. She loved to work in the garden, Dennis said.

Lelia’s memory will continue to live on in the NSFS garden and the pavilion that bears her name.

Dennis, owner of Lindy Dennis Construction Company, donated his time and expertise in building the pavilion, Shellenberger said.

“Lindy helped us with the irrigation and helped us build the building, and when the property had to be graded for drainage, he helped with that,” Shellenberger said. “He’s a very fine man.”

Future plans for the garden include building raised beds for the elderly and the handicapped, so that are able to enjoy working in the soil as well.

“It reminds them of when they were young and they had a garden or they’re family had a garden,” Shellenberger said. “To add that little bit of joy to their lives is what it’s all about.”

For more information on Nutrition and Services for Seniors and its Meals on Wheels program, visit www.seniormeals.org or call (409) 892-4455.

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