Seniors’ therapeutic horticulture takes root at Village Concepts in Auburn

Village Concepts, a third generation family-owned business helping seniors thrive in retirement and assisted living communities throughout Washington state, has announced a garden partnership at Brannan Park Retirement in Auburn.

The Eldergrow™ garden will introduce the first therapeutic horticulture program specifically designed for Village Concepts residents.

“Enrichment programs at Village Concepts are constantly expanding, and we are excited to further that commitment with Eldergrow as we provide our residents with fun opportunities for lifelong learning,” said Stuart Brown, Village Concepts chief operating officer. “Residents will be able to experience the satisfaction of creating and nurturing their own garden, just like at home, while attending classes and enjoying the fruits of their labor complete with arts and cooking activities.”

Brannan Park launches the pioneering program with a garden design kickoff at 1:30 p.m. Monday. Residents can enjoy the benefits of sensory stimulation and connecting with nature while they choose plants and herbs to transplant into the therapy garden. The indoor therapy garden and wellness program is coordinated through Eldergrow, an award-winning Seattle-based startup dedicated to bringing the joys and benefits of nature indoors.

“We are thrilled to partner with Village Concepts,” said Orla Concannon, founder of Eldergrow. “Along with the therapeutic benefits, gardening gives residents something to look forward to, like waiting for that bud to blossom. The residents at Brannan Park will enjoy a myriad of classes as they watch life grow.”

Eldergrow’s educators will teach and build relationships with residents through ongoing enrichment classes on horticulture, culinary and garden art; with applications ranging from a Margherita pizza topped with homegrown basil and tomatoes, or freshly snipped lavender for closet sachets. Educators also help in maintaining garden health and delivering seasonal plants. Studies show that horticulture therapy increases self-esteem, improves motor skills, reduces the risk factors for dementia and decreases medication. It also provides residents with a renewed sense of purpose as they care for their garden.

For more information, call 888-548-6609 or visit

Everyone won during Food Fight

Photo courtesy of April Balsley, The Fife Free Press

The one-week extension on the annual Food Fight to benefit the Edgewood Fish Food Bank made all the difference in the world.

This year’s battle royale pitted Mill Ridge Village Executive Director Jennifer Reich against Fife-Milton-Edgewood Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Membership Development April Balsley for a bout to the finish.

The two “fought” over who could gather the most food to benefit those in need in our community. The friendly challenge started in early June and was set to last only two weeks, but the deadline was extended to allow for more donations between Reich’s “Team Red” (Reich) and Balseley’s “Team Blue.”

With a week to go in this second-annual event, both teams had gathered a combined 600 pounds of food and $450 in donations, but the final tally dwarfed that volume. The final tally is 1,331 pounds of donated food and $2,143 in donation. April’s Team Blue won with 488 pounds of food and $1,450 in donations against Reich’s Team Red with 843 pounds and $693 in donations.

Each team had their donation barrels placed around Fife, Milton and Edgewood, where people could drop off non-perishable food into the bin of their choice. The final push yielded members of the local referral group Ignite U to donate more than 1,200 cases of water.

“Last year, we distributed over a million pounds of food, so the drive total seems like a drop in the bucket. But, it isn’t to us. Oftentimes the food we receive during food drives gives our clients a variety we can’t afford to offer. I love this drive because it reminds our community members and local businesses about the continued need of some of our less fortunate neighbors, especially during the summer months,” said Food Bank Manager Kate Wright. “I am forever grateful to April and Jennifer for their energy and willingness to take on the FME Food Fight.”

People can still donate nonperishable food or money to Fish Food Bank, which serves 518,000 individuals facing significant hardships around Pierce County. Since 2008, the community’s need for food distribution through FISH has increased 132 percent. FISH Food Banks is the oldest and largest food bank network in Pierce County, with locations in Edgewood, Graham/South Hill, Lakewood, Northeast Tacoma, Northwest Tacoma, Southeast Tacoma and West Tacoma. FISH’s Mobile Food Bank visits a different location daily, including schools in the Bethel, Clover Park and Tacoma School Districts.

Because so many food bank clients need more than food, FISH opened Connection Centers and clothing banks to provide free clothing to families in need. At Fish, 97 cents of every dollar donated goes to food distribution. In 2015, more than $10 million of in-kind food was donated, and FISH spent an additional $380,000 procuring nutritious food to ensure a sufficient and balanced selection. For every $1 donated, FISH can distribute more than $9 worth of food. The average cost per meal is only 18 cents thanks to the 700 volunteers who make daily food bank operations possible. More information can be found at