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Essentia unveils Healing Garden for patients, families, employees in Fargo

The garden, proposed by employees, is 100% funded by an employee giving program at the Essentia Health-Fargo Foundation.

Four people hold cups and walk through a garden with tan rocks, grey brick walls, and short flowers.
Employees walk through the Healing Garden following its official opening Monday, July 11, 2022, at Essentia Health-Fargo. The garden was proposed and funded by employees for patients, families and employees to enjoy.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum
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FARGO — A new outdoor space designed in the name of healing is available for patients, their families and employees of Essentia Health hospital in Fargo.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, July 11, officially welcomed the Healing Garden, situated on the east side of the hospital at 3000 32nd Ave. S.

The garden was proposed and fully funded by employees who are members of PEERS, the employee giving program at the Essentia Health-Fargo Foundation.

Susan Omdalen, the foundation’s executive director, said the PEERS committee took on the project about three years ago.

“We said we were going to raise money for this. It’s all of our staff that have paid for this, so it's pretty exciting,” Omdalen said.

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Rachel Warren, a volunteer from the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce who assisted in the ceremony, said she could not believe employees donated funds themselves, especially given what they have been through during the pandemic.

“I feel like we should have done this for them,” Warren said.

With a pergola at the entrance of the landscaped area of flowers, shrubs, seating and walkways, the space is meant for patients, families and employees to relax between medical procedures or work shifts.

“When things maybe aren't always so beautiful inside, we can give them a little bit of beauty outside,” said Amanda Olafson, chair of the PEERS committee.

Waynett Malheim-Klemetson is an OB-GYN nurse at Essentia who said she got the idea for the garden after seeing a similar one about six years ago at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

When her husband was admitted to Mayo for treatment of a life-threatening condition, the garden was a source of comfort and was helpful to his recovery.

“It just makes such a huge difference in the healing and health of patients,” Malheim-Klemetson said.

Pam Perleberg, director of development at the Essentia foundation, said the estimated cost for the project raised by employees was approximately $200,000.

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Signature Landscapes was able to provide some items at cost and provide services at a reduced rate, she said.

Perleberg said the PEERS program stands for “promoting employee engagement by raising our level of service.”

It started with approximately 18% employee participation seven years ago and now has about 60% of employees involved.

“We’re pulling in over $3,000 a pay period, so that adds up,” Perleberg said.

The PEERS program has also funded other projects, including cellphone charging stations in the hospital and breastfeeding pods for lactating moms and their babies.

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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