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Catholic Health bucket gardens growing at nursing homes across Western New York

There are 40 buckets filled with tomato, pepper, and strawberry plants at five nursing homes and the downtown headquarters.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Seniors at several Catholic Health nursing homes in Western New York are flexing these green thumbs and trying their hand at growing fresh produce.

At St. Francis Park in Hamburg, a small courtyard is filled with five-gallon buckets filled with tomato plants and pepper seedlings. They're even growing strawberries.

"I think it's really just the beauty of seeing something grow," Sister Sharon Goodremote said.

This is the first year for the bucket gardens at St. Francis Park, an enhanced and independent living community, but the bucket garden project actually got started a few years ago at the McAuley Residence.

"Our chaplain there who's an avid gardener started a few buckets, and he noticed how the residents were just so interested in going out and making sure it's weeded and watered," said Howard Morgan, the Executive Resident, of Mission Integration for Catholic Health. "My mission team, we're always trying to find new and unique ways how to engage our residents and even engage our associates that work with us."

The residents still have a couple of months before the plants will be ready for picking, but they already have plans for the fruits of their labor.

"I love tomato sandwiches. That's my favorite. Just salt and pepper and I'm happy. Of course, it needs a little pepper," said Nettie Corsaro, resident at the OLV Senior Neighborhood in Lackawanna.

Valu Home Centers donated 40 buckets and gave Catholic Health a $300 mini-grant for soil and other supplies.

The mini gardens are about more than fresh produce. It's a way of connecting the people in these small communities and getting them out of their rooms and outside for some fresh air.

Digging in the soil, lifting heavy watering cans, and bending over to weed serve as a little workout. Then there's the sense of accomplishment.

"Pull away the dirt and put it back on. Just with that, we've kind of already given our love to this little plant. It's going to grow and it's going to feed us," Goodremote said.

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