Olivecrest was my first venture into Horticultural Therapy. My close friend Marlene Javage had become aware of the Olive Crest Therapeutic Education Center in Santa Ana. She asked if I was willing to assist her in the installation of Interior plants at the school. With a yep….let’s do it, I contacted fellow collegues in the plant world, and the first PIA Cares project in Orange County was birthed. Shortly after the Olive Crest TEC classrooms were enlivened with a collection of beautiful living plants.
I personally maintained the installed plant material and taught the students about their new adoptees. I had the privilege of mentoring several students in the care of the plants, and one went on to work in the florist business after graduation. I was also asked to assist a teacher on staff in creating an elective science class. Together with students, staff, teachers and volunteers we created a fabulous garden fondly named by the students “The Beautiful Garden” which was dedicated in May of 2004. I had never participated in such a large community project before but the rewards and challenges taught me what it takes to be a dedicated volunteer and teacher.
I found as I worked with these teenagers who had come from such difficult backgrounds, that they loved plants, and many had a strong desire to learn more about the field of Horticulture. I spoke to the staff and asked if I could plan field trips for the students that would expose them to the various job opportunities in Horticulture. It combined two of my greatest loves, traveling and teaching. We visited wholesale nurseries, florists, the flower fields in Carlsbad, and an Armstrong nursery.