Last year Ann Pellegrino, director of the Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach, wanted to build an accessible garden for her son Chris and other wheelchair-bound volunteers at the farm, which grows produce for local food pantries and soup kitchens. Eva Rodriguez, chair of the Occupational Therapy (OT) program at Stony Brook University, found out about the project and got students and other faculty involved. The group went to the farm on Oxhead Road to help assemble the raised planting beds that now make it easier for people in wheelchairs to pull themselves up and reach what’s inside.
Funding for the garden came in part from a Quality of Life Grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which the SBU OT program applied for and received, and also from a donation by Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore and Professor Rodriguez.
The new space, named the Garden of Ephraim, officially opened to the public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, June 7. The faculty and students from Stony Brook’s OT program attended the opening ceremony. Legislator Muratore was also there for the celebration, as well as Suffolk County Legislator John Kennedy, Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle, and a representative from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
“The students and faculty spent hours building the raised garden beds and hauling the dirt to fill them,” said Professor Rodriguez. “They really worked so hard to make this accessible garden a reality. I am so proud of all of them, and I want the world to be proud of them, too.”
Volunteers operate Bethel Hobbs Farm, which is owned by the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Setauket. Most of the food grown there goes to people in need, and the remaining produce is sold at the farm, with money raised going directly back into farm operations.