Seventeen years ago, Maddy Perron was asked by former UNH Extension Educator, Margaret Hagen to plant a garden cart that was donated to Hillsborough County Nursing Home. As she worked plants into the cart’s soil, patients noticed. A few came over to lend a hand. They “were so happy to be able to grow things indoors,” she says. Soon after “Elders on the Grow” was born.
As the resident group grew, Maddy added craft projects. She also brought in help from the Girl Scouts to do fairy gardens and seed mosaics. Helping also were 4-H members, friends and relatives, including her daughter and nephews and nieces. Every once in a while a pet showed up. “The residents love the children’s enthusiasm,” she says.
Elders was a “good fit” for Maddy. The New Boston home and property she shares with husband has a large greenhouse with east- and south-facing glass sliders. “This is my project room for propagating, storing supplies and working on preparations for [Elder] meetings.” She sometimes gathers wild plants from her farm for Elders to use in projects.
Maddy started her career as an X-ray technician and worked in that field for 40 years. Her volunteer work also includes working with sixth-grade, garden club students at New Boston Central School. In 2014 she received a grant to build raised beds in West High School’s courtyard that were planted by English as a Second Language students.
Maddy became a Master Gardener in 1993, the first year of the program in New Hampshire and thus is one of the longest serving Master Gardeners. “Being a Master Gardener sure has opened doors for me that I would never have guessed would happen.”
Due to her vast experience working with older people, Maddy intends to write a guide book — “Bringing the Outdoors In” — on “gardening and making nature crafts for those unable to get out and enjoy Mother Nature on their own.”
As a Master Gardener sometimes helping with the Elders group, I can attest to Maddy spending days preparing the hour-long classes held twice each month. The program was weekly, but when her husband retired, she reduced the meetings to spend more time with him. Due to the growth in participants, Maddy says, “Prep time is longer and sometimes it takes a few days to get it all together.”
The Elders group has burgeoned from just a few residents to 20 or more. With more people, supply costs increase. Expenses are covered by fundraisers in May and December selling plants and crafts made by the Elders.
“It's a win-win” for all, says Maddy who is grateful for the nursing home administration’s support and all the people who volunteer in the program. “I’ve always been an active person, so planning the Elders on the Grow meetings enlivens my life and I'm sure it helps embellish the resident's lives too.”
UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers share information about home, yard, and garden topics with the people of New Hampshire. Got questions? Master Gardeners provide practical help finding answers to your questions through the Ask UNH Extension Infoline. Call toll free at 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.