While gardening can be challenging work, the results of that labor can become a pleasing sensory and aesthetic experience. The chance to share these beautiful outcomes with the public is what prompts gardeners to participate in the Sonoma County Medical Association Alliance (SCMAA) Foundation Garden Tour. One such gardener is Dr. Charles Meltzer, an otolaryngologist at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa who is making his debut as a garden owner in the 23rd annual Garden Tour, set for May 16 and 17. He may well have found gardening and sharing his garden to be the keys to health and happiness.
Without reservation, the hands-on Dr. Meltzer says his garden is a peaceful place where he is able to absorb the quietness around him, interrupted only by the delightful sound of birdsong. “I enjoy the beauty of the constantly changing seasonal show,” he comments. Through a process of trial and error, he ensures that each plant is placed correctly by moving the plant up to three times until just the right space is found. The final placement satisfies both the plant and the gardener.
With two acres to keep under control, Dr. Meltzer finds the physical aspects of gardening help maintain his strength, endurance and flexibility. His weekend gardening tasks--which include squatting to pull weeds, hauling wheelbarrows full of compost and even stretching while pruning--supplement his usual weekday workouts. He also maintains beehives whose award-winning honey has kept him fairly allergy free. “While the bees do the work, we have to plan and plant the garden to provide them with the pollen that they turn into nectar,” explains Dr. Meltzer. He has also planted a kitchen garden from which he harvests fruits and vegetables year-round. Canning, freezing and preserving these foods allows him to enjoy a bit of summer in the middle of winter.
When asked why he decided to open his garden to tour-goers, Dr. Meltzer responds, “My garden gives me pleasure, and while I am a total amateur, I was honored to be asked and happy to share it with other amateur gardeners. They can learn from my mistakes, and it is nice to be able to contribute to the community we live in.”
That willingness to contribute is what makes the garden owners in the tour so special. By sharing his garden with others, Dr. Meltzer is able to give Garden Tour guests a lovely experience while at the same time raising funds for the SCMAA Foundation. “Giving back to the community is the right thing to do,” says Dr. Meltzer. “We live in such a big world that we have little impact on, but our community is where we can make some difference. Philanthropy is only one part of good citizenship, and I am very happy to be participating by sharing my garden, which is my sanctuary and very special to me.”
With the funds raised by the Garden Tour, the SCMAA Foundation will continue to provide for underserved children and adults through its current, thriving programs: Foster Children’s Give-a-gift, Health Careers Scholarship, Safe Schools and Health Promotions (JourneySafe Program, Teddy Bears Project). These programs make it possible to donate holiday gifts to more than 250 children in the foster care system; support former foster youth as they move on to college by providing them with laptop computers; offer scholarships that help Sonoma County students become healthcare professionals; help teachers purchase and use anti-violence and anti-bullying curriculum; host distracted-driving programs in our local high schools; and provide teddy bears to children who undergo medical procedures. This year, the SCMAA Foundation is extending its giving to the Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County for their Healthy Farm Worker Families fund. Lastly, proceeds will also be directed to the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County for developing the “Head-2-Toe” health and science lab.
The SCMAA Foundation is eternally grateful to the garden owners who take on the tremendous task of preparing, maintaining and sprucing up in the hope that Garden Tour guests will experience the peacefulness and beauty that each of these gardens brings. The Garden Tour, which is self-guided, will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, May 16, and Saturday, May 17. Tickets cost $40 (or $45 after April 30) and are available for purchase at www.scmaa.org.
Ms. Pappas is vice president for marketing & communications at the SCMA Alliance & Foundation.
SONOMA MEDICINE | Spring 2014 | Sonoma County Medical Association
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