Money issues could close Arboretum's Ability Garden - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Money issues could close Arboretum's Ability Garden

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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - For a dozen years, people with mental and physical disabilities have been getting help from a program at the New Hanover County Arboretum. This year, there's plenty of green plants, but a shortage of "other" green -- money. 

Dagmar Cooley is a landscaper, but she is also a big supporter of the Ability Garden at the New Hanover County Arboretum. 

"We provide free horticultural therapy for folks with special needs and we work with individuals who may be as young as eight and as old as eighty eight, and everyone in between" said volunteer worker Dagmar Cooley. "And we promote an environment to garden because they may not otherwise will be physically able to garden."  

On a recent warm, fall afternoon, Cooley was working with some New Hanover County students. More than 2,000 people participated in the Ability Garden program last year. 

These plants are being transplanted to a larger growing space where, later on, they will be sold in one of the Ability Garden's plant sales. Money raised thru the various plant sales is used to keep the program alive.   

The Ability Garden was started by a grant from the Cape Fear Hospital Foundation in 1999. But as the economy fluctuates, so do the contributions and grants available. 

At this time, the Ability Garden does not receive any state or county funding. And even though County Extension Director Al Hight did ask for and receive some county funds to keep the doors open, but that is a one-time thing. 

That has helped, but because of the lack of other money, there is a real possibility that the Ability Garden could be closing.

"Grants are getting hard to come by, so we do the majority of our fund-raising, the actual donations, by the plants we grow in our program, so any plants that we sell, 100% of the dollars go back to support this program and keeping our doors open" said Cooley. 

The volunteers at the Ability Garden hope people will continue to recognize the work they are doing to help their participants, and respond with donations. But in the meanwhile, they are hoping that a late year plant sale will help keep them going, until warm weather arrives again in the spring, and a regular schedule of plant sales kick in. 

The next plant sale for the Ability Garden is this Friday and Saturday. The Arboretum and Ability Garden are located on Oleander Drive. 

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