Scout's meditation garden is proof of the power of positive thinking

November 22, 1992|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,Contributing Writer

A red stone walkway winds through the new meditation garden at the St. Mary's of the Assumption Church in Pylesville. The beds are neatly planted with small trees, shrubs and flowers. There's a patio with benches and a statue of the Blessed Mother. At the entrance is a trellis which will someday be heavy with clematis.

When 15-year-old Wendy Dieter started making plans for the garden in April, it was to have a simple design with a small patio and a statue. But as support for the project grew, so did the plans.

"I never would have thought I could have done anything this big," said Wendy, a North Harford High School sophomore who coordinated the effort as part of a Girl Scout leadership project. "People pitched in so much and gave so much of themselves."

With the completion of the garden in September, Wendy took the final step toward earning the highest honor for a Girl Scout -- the Gold Award. She comes from a family with a strong tradition of scouting: her older sister Michele, 17, also earned the Gold Award and her older brother Tom, 19, is an Eagle Scout.

"I know through experience that community service projects build self-esteem and leadership abilities," said Sue Dieter, Wendy's mother. "It's through projects like these that young people grow into themselves."

As a newly confirmed member of St. Mary's, Wendy decided that she wanted to do something that would benefit the church. The pastor at the church, the Rev. Robert Hartnett, suggested a meditation garden.

"She took the project and made it much bigger than any of us anticipated," Father Hartnett said.

At the end of April, Wendy mailed letters to about 350 businesses, primarily in Harford County, asking for their support. She also placed several notices in the church bulletin.

By June, she had received about 50 responses with offers of plants, shrubs, trees and topsoil.

People donated plants from their gardens. Plants, a bird feeder, birdbath and birdhouse were given as memorials. Cash contributions totaling $1,800 were used to pay for the patio, statue and mulch. The church bought the red stone for the walkway.

One of the business responses came from Dolores Peck, who is also a member of St. Mary's Church. She and her husband, Hugh, own Peck's Nursery in Jarrettsville, and they wanted to help.

"She was really a lifesaver," Wendy said. "From then on out we would talk on the phone one or two times a day."

The Pecks designed the garden, cut the sod from the site, tilled the soil, planted, mulched and installed the patio, trellis and walkway.

"Wendy is just so outstanding," Mrs. Peck said. "We wanted to do things for her because it was a pleasure to work with her. She had a dream and . . . this 15-year-old got all of these people to do all of these things."

Throughout the summer, Wendy wrote thank you notes and made entries in her journal. She opened a bank account and kept careful financial records. She and her mother drove all over the county to pick up donations, storing more than 100 plants in their yard at home. Every day for a month she spent 1 1/2 hours watering them. (A friend took over for a week while she went on vacation.) And when it was time for planting she took them to the church and set them in place.

Now, early morning walkers have a place to rest and reflect. Sunday churchgoers can pause for a moment after mass. And when the plants have grown and matured, the garden may even become the setting for parishioners' wedding photos.

The plans included a gazebo, and there's a space where one can be added.

Wendy even entered a few raffles with hopes of winning one since the funds she raised would not cover its purchase.

"It was a great experience," Wendy said. "I learned so many things and it was really exciting to see all of the results."

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