Garden blooms at Roseville mental health facility with help of community support

Published on June 18, 2018

Kristine Monks has always loved to garden. Outside her small apartment, though, she is only allowed a few small pots.

It’s that same small apartment where Monks has tended to isolate herself as she’s wrestled with mental health challenges. But when she walked through the doors of the Cirby Clubhouse, Placer County’s outpatient facility in Roseville, she not only found a community that welcomed her with open arms but also the opportunity to hone her green thumb.

Gaea Pope-Daum coordinates the county’s Health 360 program, which integrates physical health activities with mental health treatment. That includes nutrition, and so Pope-Daum has been growing herbs and vegetables in wine barrels for the last two years, teaching clients to prepare healthy dishes and sending them home with packets of produce.

“It’s a rarity for many of them to have this kind of activity in their lives, because they don’t have a yard or they don’t have money to put into it,” said Pope-Daum. “But everybody loves plants.”

Pope-Daum’s dream has long been to expand from the wine barrels to a larger garden, run by and for clients.

That dream became a reality this spring thanks to a few helpers. Once Pope-Daum secured money for materials, a supervisor’s contractor husband volunteered his time to construct six large planter beds. 

Then, participants in the Placer Re-Entry Program helped haul 14 yards of dirt into the beds. PREP serves probationers who are thought to be at moderate or high risk of reoffending by linking them to a case manager and supportive services to help them transition back into the community after leaving prison. Part of the program is giving back through community service. The three PREP participants not only moved dirt but also set up a drip system.

Next, it was time for Monks to accompany Pope-Daum along with another client, Trevor, to the local Green Acres where they loaded up a few carts with seeds and starts.

They will be joined by other clients to tend to the garden, watering and nourishing the plants before harvesting them for healthy meals.

“It’s been a huge effort from everyone and a really wonderful process to see how engaged people are,” Pope-Daum said, adding that when clients feel a sense of ownership around the garden they are more likely to actually eat healthier diets from the fruits of their labor.

Monks certainly takes great pride in the process.

“It’s a garden for everyone in the community. And that’s what is important to me. That’s helped me get out of my shell and just grow,” she said.

That growth is both literal — as the emerging squashes, peppers, tomatoes, corn, flowers and herbs attest to — and figurative.

“It’s increased her self-confidence and her sense of self,” Pope-Daum said.

Learn more about the programs at the Cirby Clubhouse by calling 916-787-8995.