As he waters the freshly planted seeds, Arthur gives Activity Specialist Cathy Brunelle a giant “high-five” in celebration. Arthur is one of the day hab participants at Omni Way planting a garden for Earth Day, an annual tradition that individuals and staff alike look forward to!

“Since Incompass Human Services programs are all about nurturing growth, it’s only fitting that we turn Earth Day into a special day for our program participants,” says Shawn Nault, director of day programs.

After a year of pandemic restrictions, many of which are still in place, this year’s Earth Day activity was highly anticipated according to Brunelle. “We are planting a variety of vegetables, flowers, and herbs in the raised, wheelchair-accessible gardening beds and containers here at Omni Way, and everyone is really excited to see what will grow!”

Leading up to today, she said that “each of our day hab rooms provided me with a list of seeds that they chose to grow, both in their program rooms and in our patio garden.” They also spent time earlier this week preparing the garden beds and the soil.

Vegetables were a popular choice this year, as participants are planting potatoes, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, beets, and even a few tomato plants. Bianco’s Catering, who is also a tenant at 4 Omni Way, has even asked our program participants to help grow some fresh herbs for their customers as well!

Gardening is a passion for Brunelle, and one that is she enthusiastically shares with the Incompass community through her role as an activity specialist. At the height of the COVID pandemic when facility-based programs were suspended, Brunelle provided seeds to Incompass group home residents and hosted virtual gardening sessions through Zoom.

“Gardening in and of itself is a very therapeutic activity and it ties to a number of clinical and day hab goals in areas of social communication, fine motor, gross motor, and independent living skills, to name a few,” says Brunelle. “We also have a plot in the Chelmsford Community Garden at Sunny Meadow Farm that we maintain and incorporate into our community-based therapeutic gardening activity.”

In the program rooms, participants have been reading about the history of Earth Day and the movement to protect our planet. And each room will also be working on a grow chart in anticipation of their seeds sprouting, something they are all looking forward to!

As for what will become of the fresh vegetables that will be sprouting from those garden beds, nothing will go to waste. Some of the fresh vegetables will be brought home by participants, and many will be used on-site for the cooking classes in the Omni Way kitchen.

“It’s fair to say that Earth Day is a big deal at Incompass Human Services!” says Nault, who also encourages everyone in the Incompass community to take a moment today to do something to help protect the planet. “We’ve only got one planet after all!”