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             Representatives from The Aroostook Medical Center and the town of Fort Fairfield have been working jointly for the last few years on a Community General Hospital Legacy Project that has brought both a memorial garden and a community garden to the site of the former hospital in Fort Fairfield.  The work has been spearheaded by members of the CGH Legacy Project Committee.

            “When TAMC, or any business, partners with a community to help the residents of that community, it’s a benefit for all,” said Jim Risner, town manager of Fort Fairfield.   “This has been a great collaborative effort to improve citizens’ physical health by what they can grow in the community garden and their mental health by providing a quiet, green space to go and reflect in the memorial garden.”

            The plans for the Community General Hospital Memorial Garden were unveiled in July of 2015, as part of the town’s Maine Potato Blossom Festival activities.  The community garden was unveiled at the same time, giving residents free access to space to try their hand at gardening and grow their own vegetables.

            Since that time, thousands of dollars’ worth of items have been donated to the memorial garden, such as benches, trees and shrubs from various entities.  The Pendleton Pavilion was unveiled last year in honor of Dr. Arthur “Don” and Patricia Pendleton, and a winding pathway through the garden is in memory of J.R. McGillan. The most recent donation is a children’s playhouse, donated in memory of Fort Fairfield children who have passed away.  The playhouse, donated by the Doughty family, is another great example of collaboration for the benefit of the community.

            MaryLou Doughty and her daughter, Barb Ireland, donated the funds to pay for the playhouse, while her son, Kerby Doughty, and the students in his industrial technology class at Fort Fairfield Middle & High School designed and built the log playhouse.  In addition, Katahdin Cedar Log Homes in Oakfield donated the logs for the building, while S.W. Collins Company and the Easton Amish donated additional materials.   The Fort Fairfield town crew supported the effort by moving the completed playhouse to its location near the Community General Hospital Memorial Garden, which is adjacent to TAMC’s Fort Fairfield Health Center.

            “This project was a labor of love.  The students learned something every day that we worked on it,” said Kerby Doughty.  “It was a great service learning project that allowed them to give back to their community.”

            Students who worked on the playhouse were:  Chris Caldwell, Keenan Charette, Tyler Emerson, Mackenzie MacDougal, Liam McNamee, and Ryan Player.  Artwork inside the playhouse and a welcome sign were completed by Alyssa Poitras. 

            “This means a lot to my mother and our entire family,” said Barb Ireland.  “My brother and my sister each lost children at a young age, and the community was very supportive of the family during that time.  This is a way that we can give back.”

            Risner considers the memorial garden a great addition to the community and is pleased to see it continuing to garner community support.

            “It gives the town green space, a place to sit in a quiet location and reflect.  This particular garden is located where the old hospital used to be, and so many people had a connection with the hospital or have loved ones that they want to remember who had a connection with the hospital. It’s easy to get to and has ample parking.  It’s a peaceful place where people can go.”

            To keep the peaceful atmosphere of the memorial garden, the playhouse has been placed outside of that area, closer to the community garden, which is also located on the former grounds of Community General Hospital.  Since the hope for the community garden is that residents, especially families, will take on plots to grow fresh vegetables, it is an ideal site for the playhouse.

            “The community garden is a great opportunity for people who want a garden but don’t have the space or the ability to till up a garden,” said Risner.  “For families with kids, in addition to providing home grown vegetables, it helps the children learn where these products come from.”

            A dozen 20x13 foot plots are available for Fort Fairfield residents at no cost. 

Guidelines and an application to obtain a plot in the community garden are available at www.fortfairfield.org or residents can request it be mailed to you by contacting the town office at 472-3800. 

            Members of the CGH Legacy Project Committee plan to continue the efforts for these two gardens.  Included in future plans is the possibility of stones around the playhouse area that families can purchase to remember a child, with his or her name and other details engraved on the stone. If any local families are interested in this possibility, they should contact Sarah Ulman at sarah@mehorse.com or any member of the CGH Legacy Project Committee.