Carbondale gardens help alcoholics in journey to sobriety | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale gardens help alcoholics in journey to sobriety

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kelley Cox Post Independent

CARBONDALE – Kevin sees a personal metaphor in the colorful gardens that, with his help, cropped up in front of the Jaywalker Lodge residential treatment center for recovering alcoholics, where he completed his three-month program on Thursday.

“In a way, it is a metaphor for what this place does,” said Kevin, whose last name could not be used due to client confidentiality provisions at the private recovery center.

“When you come in here, they take you from some pretty low places in your life,” he said. “This garden is part of that nurturing, that education process.

“I saw it as a tearing up of the old, and a rebuilding of the new,” said Kevin, who along with several other Jaywalker clients helped with the initial construction of the gardens earlier this spring on the front lawn at the lodge’s Main Street location in Carbondale.

“We planted new seeds and used tools, which are kind of like the tools we have here to deal with our addictions,” he said. “Along the way, we’ll watch it grow and eventually see the fruit of our harvest.”

The gardens, now full of blooming flowers and maturing vegetable plants, were the brainchild of Dan Reed, the clinical director at Jaywalker Lodge since shortly after the center opened four years ago.

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“Kitty’s Gardens” are dedicated in memory of Reed’s sister, Kitty, who was living in Iowa with her family before she died of cancer a couple of months ago.

Reed has a degree in horticulture, which he hadn’t used for the past 17 years since choosing a different career path in counseling. But the gardens, which are totally organic, seemed like the perfect tribute to his sister, with the dual purpose of helping the Jaywalker clients through their recovery process.

He asked permission of Bob Ferguson, owner of the Jaywalker residential addiction treatment center for men and the nearby halfway house, and he agreed.

“The clients were instrumental in helping me put the gardens in,” Reed said. “It’s something we thought would be really good for the guys, because one of the things we stress here is a healthy lifestyle, and that includes eating well.

“This is a piece of the puzzle for them, and our hope for the future is that some of them will carry on and continue to garden,” Reed said.

Brian Trom, the executive chef at Jaywalker, also appreciates the gardens and what they will allow him to do in the way of meal planning for the residents and staff.

“Historically, I have spent a great deal of time and effort visiting local markets, often buying expensive vegetables and herbs without being able to rely on quality,” Trom said. “I strive to cook innovative, wholesome and healthy meals using fresh, local produce. I never expected that I would have the opportunity to have a private, on-site garden in the front yard for my use.

“I am also hoping that this garden will inspire the clients to adopt a healthy lifestyle by consuming fresh and nutritious ingredients,” he said.

Jaywalker Lodge can house up to 21 men in the initial treatment program, and 12 in the halfway house program, located in a separate facility just up the street.

Reed said a major focus of the program is encouraging the clients to make a positive difference in their community. They do a variety of service work, including volunteering at community events, helping at the CARE animal shelter and cleaning up a section of one of the local highways.

When they dug up the sod for the gardens, they put a sign up and offered it for free to anyone passing by.

“It was gone in less than a day,” Reed said.

Any excess produce from the gardens will be donated to the local food shelter, he said. They’ve also gotten a lot of positive comments from the community about the gardens, and what they’ve added to the ambiance of Main Street.

“We’re hoping some other people will get the same idea and do this in their front yards,” he said.

At the moment, there’s not a lot to be done in the gardens other than weeding, but the garden work has been added as one of the “therapeutic duty assignments” for the Jaywalker residents.

The Jaywalker Lodge hosts its second Fourth of July celebration Friday at 8 p.m. at the Gathering Center, located at the Church at Carbondale on Snowmass Drive. Ester Nicholson, a former member of Rod Stewart’s band who performed with Bette Midler on two world tours, will be appearing with local singer/songwriters JD Martin and Jan Garrett. The event is free and open to the public. For more information on the event, call Kim Nuzzo at 309-4828.

jstroud@postindependent.com

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