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Community and wellness are two key concepts that organizers have taken into account with the Community General Hospital Legacy Project, and Fort Fairfield residents will begin to benefit from their work this summer.
Early in 2015, the CGH Legacy Project Committee announced plans for a series of community projects, including a memorial garden and a community garden. The committee is a partnership between the Town of Fort Fairfield, the Fort Fairfield Quality of Place Council and the Community General Hospital Legacy Committee. Its overarching mission is to pay tribute to the legacy of the former Community General Hospital, including its staff, volunteers, donors and patients through the years.
Last July, as part of the Maine Potato Blossom Festival, plans were unveiled for the Community General Hospital Memorial Garden. The garden is located on the footprint of two sections that were torn down; an original section from 1951 and an attached physician office building that was built in 1971.
“There is a long history of quality healthcare in the town of Fort Fairfield and we wanted to memorialize not only the staff of the former Community General Hospital, but the great care that they provided their patients,” said James McKenney, vice president of support services at TAMC and co-chair of the Community General Hospital Legacy committee.
“We’ve had approximately $10,000 worth of items donated to the memorial garden, such as benches, trees, and shrubs by various entities. It should be finished by mid-summer,” McKenney said.
McKenney credits his co-chair, Rayle Reed Ainsworth, along with Fort Fairfield Town Manager Jim Risner, Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tim Goff, and the other committee members as being instrumental in this whole process.
“The Community General Hospital Memorial Garden is transforming the face of this important community resource, and continuing its legacy as a place of healing, by turning the footprint of the former hospital into an aesthetically appealing space with trees, shrubs and flowers providing a place for patients and visitors to relax and reflect on its granite benches or to quietly stroll along its paths,” explained Risner.
Individuals, area businesses and organizations interested in supporting the Memorial Garden may contact the TAMC Foundation at (207) 768-4350. All donations go directly to the memorial garden. Another way to show support is through the purchase of a granite bench, according to McKenney. The committee has sold six granite benches so far and the information on how to do so can be found by clicking here.  
In addition to the memorial/healing garden, the community garden was unveiled in July, 2015. The mission of the community garden is to provide space for local gardeners and as part of the mission, space has been set aside to grow produce for Catholic Charities Maine and Families Feeding Families.
With help initially from the Fort Fairfield chapter of the Future Farmers of America, including advisor Jeannie Fox, plots were established in the community garden located just off Brown Street. Member gardeners are expected to tend to their own plots, as well as keep the area weeded, harvested, and aesthetically pleasing. Karen Colburn will be leading the community garden efforts in 2016.
For this coming summer, the committee decided to make the garden plots available for free to encourage residents to try their hand at gardening and to take advantage of this opportunity to grow their own vegetables.
Starting in 2017, plot holder fees for the community garden will be $25 for Fort Fairfield residents, $30 for non-residents. The intent of the annual fee is to help cover operating costs. Other support costs will come from donations, grants and fundraising events. TAMC and the Town of Fort Fairfield will also provide limited support.
“These gardens have a benefit beyond the aesthetics,” said Goff. “The memorial garden will not only be a fitting tribute to the staff and healthcare providers who worked here, but will also be a place where community members will be able to reflect in a tranquil setting. It is also the committee’s goal that a visit to the garden will have some functional benefits as far as basic stretches and simple yoga. The committee is considering laminated cards on sticks located throughout the garden where folks can stop and do the stretch or yoga that’s shown on the card. Add to that the adjacent community garden, which is entering its second season in operation providing folks without the space an opportunity to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers – and you have a project which benefits the overall health of the community.”
Information on the community garden can also be found by clicking here as well as at local stores.
In addition to these gardens, a historical artifacts display will be located adjacent to the waiting room of Fort Fairfield Health Center, featuring items and photos that have been collected over the years. The plan is to rotate those artifacts every three months or so, according to McKenney. Other projects for the memorial garden are a children’s memorial area and a pavilion, spearheaded by the family of Dr. Arthur “Don” and Patricia Pendleton. Dr. Pendleton was a long-time healthcare provider in the Fort Fairfield community. The committee is always looking for community members who would like to assist in one or more of the projects. Individuals are encouraged to contact Carrie Winslow at 768-4555 for more information.

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