A magical place of peace

Sep 14, 2015

BATAVIA — When Olivia Shell started visiting the children’s garden at YWCA three years ago, it wasn’t very impressive, she says.

But then she, along with YW’s Adventure Program childcare staff, participants and Master Gardeners, poured their hearts into the empty plot of land.

“We started planting stuff and it came to life,” 9-year-old Olivia said Friday at the North Street site. “And it became magical.”

She and her Adventure Program gang celebrated a dedication of the garden as the Children’s Honorary International Peace Garden.

International Peace Garden Foundation Founder Paula Savage introduced the concept of having gardens as visual symbols of peace between countries and amongst communities. This is the third Peace Garden in Batavia and the second one to follow a children’s garden in Washington, D.C., Savage said.

“You are one of only two dedicated to children in the world, which is very, very special,” she said during the dedication ceremony.

She reminded spectators and the children that “the only way a garden looks beautiful is when it’s nurtured.” A concept of Adventure Program Director Jen Paxhia, this garden has received much tender loving care, Paxhia said. And one of the best parts is that many project ideas came from the children themselves, she said.

YWCA’s biggest programs are to care for children and offer domestic violence crisis and prevention services to victims and survivors, Executive Director Jeanne Walton said. So it is a perfect connection to have a peace garden right in YW’s own back yard. Children have been working hard to make it an inviting place, and “you can see the fruits of their labor,” Walton said to about 30 guests.

Work so far has included planting of raised beds, creating decorations out of recycled bowling balls, wood pallets and pine cones, making hand-painted signs and garden bed projects, installing a sandbox and crafting Rose Le Crow scarecrow out of some wood, a dress and hat.

Jan Beglinger, Master Gardener coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, has worked with Adventure Program staff to develop ideas and offer lessons about everything from bugs to the harvest. She also organized dozens of master gardeners to help out through untold hours of volunteer assistance.

“We’re sharing our love and knowledge of gardening,” Beglinger said. “It has meant going from a blank canvas to a place where kids can work in the garden, plant a seed and pick a green bean. I’ve been here since the beginning, this project is near and dear to my heart.”

State Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and Jay Grasso, on behalf of Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, each presented a proclamation for the occasion. Hawley pointed out the colorfully painted fence, flowers in bloom and other positive aspects of the garden. It’s all about peace, he said.

The dedication included unveiling of a Peace Garden stone and a special gift — a yellow plastic car with flowers in the driver's seat — from Batavia Peace Garden members. Vice President Barb Toal remembered talking about the empty plot of land years ago. Tucked between the YW building and its parking lot, “we didn’t know what to do with it.”

“This is a dream come true. We really welcome this addition to Batavia,” she said. “Every one of your little hands made this possible.”