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Volunteers install garden to benefit Columbia Community Mental Health children's counseling center

PHOTO COURTESY OF LYNN CHIOTTI - St. Helens Garden Club members Darlene Doris, Stan Chiotti, Nina Hogue, Pam Hess and Columbia Community Mental Health counselor Jill Vanwormer stand near the sensory garden at the Kids Haven counseling center in St. Helens.Volunteers from the St. Helens Garden Club recently helped install a sensory garden at Columbia Community Mental Health and its Kids Haven facility, a counseling center for children who have been through traumatic circumstances.

The garden, which is still in its beginning stages, will have many plant varieties that can be enjoyed and experienced using all five senses — sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

Lynn Chiotti, a volunteer with the garden club, said the garden was designed to be interactive. A fuzzy green plant, called lamb's ear, provides an outlet for touch, while a recycled propane bottle fashioned into a bell creates sound when struck.

Chiotti said the club will also plant fragrant flowers like lavender and chocolate mint to connect with a sense of smell.

Installation of the garden in October took one afternoon, Chiotti explained, but added the project is "ongoing and on-growing."

Volunteers from the garden club will plant flower bulbs later in the season, and will also build a bee house for mason bees sometime down the road, Chiotti said.

The Kids Haven is a newly built counseling center in St. Helens where children younger than 10 years old and their families can receive counseling services in one-on-one and family settings.

Gardening groups work year-round

While the most recent project at CCMH highlights the work of the St. Helens Garden Club, Chiotti noted that numerous garden clubs work throughout the county to keep their communities beautified all year long.

Volunteers from the St. Helens Garden Club work monthly at various locations to help maintain floral decor and shrubbery in public spaces. Volunteers work at the Columbia County Fairgrounds floral building, Veterans Park and the Caples House grounds in Columbia City, Triangle Park and McCormick Park in St. Helens. Some volunteer their services at the St. Helens Senior Center and at the Columbia Pacific Food Bank gardens in Scappoose and St. Helens, a press release from the St. Helens club states.

In Scappoose, club members maintain floral arrangements at the Scappoose totem pole on Highway 30 and Southwest Old Portland Road, and also work in the community garden

at the Scappoose Senior Center.

In Rainier, the club maintains a welcome sign near the Lewis and Clark Bridge, along with the Blue Star Marker dedication to veterans near the waterfront park.

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