XENIA — A local man’s legacy lives in a garden where Greene County adults come to work among the plants, explore the open space, or simply sit for a while.
Some walk in, others have wheels.
Through Greene County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ (GCBDD) Adult Day Services, these men and women visit the outdoor recreation area outside the Atrium Center, 121 Fairground Road, for garden therapy class once a day.
But the garden began as just a few tomato plants near a picnic table.
“The kiddos would get out to the best of their abilities in the dirt and get their hands dirty and watch it grow,” Pat Banks said.
When Banks’ son Matthew Cox, 37, entered the adult program, she said he had a difficult time with the transition. But soon he met a man named Bill Ford who changed everything.
“Bill saw him in the hallway and he said ‘Let me try’,” Banks said. “It was like night and day. Bill has always been very dynamic in the programming in how to reach these Autism Spectrum Disorder individuals. He challenges them and gives them the opportunity to create and build on self worth.”
Ford had a vision for his small garden. Soon it grew to include raised beds, which made it wheelchair-accessible.
Around the same time, Banks, with her husband David and her son, moved to a new home in Xenia, next-door to a man named Keith Jaynes.
“Keith had never met an individual with a developmental disability before,” Banks said.
Jaynes and Cox quickly hit it off. Over time, they became dear friends.
“Matthew would go see ‘Good Neighbor Keith’ — that’s what he called him,” Banks said, holding back tears.
When Jaynes died in 2016, his friend and executor of state Leona Fletcher knew he wanted to do something to help enrich Cox’s life.
“Not just Matt,” Banks said. “But they wanted to enrich and give to all these challenged special adults in Greene County.”
Through a donation to Greene Giving, the small garden expanded into a memorial garden where clients now visit.
“It’s peaceful, therapeutic, educational,” Banks said. “It’s safe, it’s wheelchair accessible, it’s just for everyone.”
“And it’s still progressing,” Ford added.
Under Ford’s vision and direction, the garden grew. Now, under a canopy of trees, the area includes a stone path walkway, all varieties of plants and flowers, a pergola and a pavilion, seating throughout and raised garden beds, all enclosed by a fence for privacy and safety.
“The main focus of this garden area is to provide sensory input for adults with disabilities, specifically individuals with Autism,” Jeanne Turner, director of GCBDD’s Adult Day Services and Community Services, said.
She explained clients use the time to just “chill out,” listen to music, learn about horticulture and gardening, and explore their senses.
The area is officially complete — for now. Future plans for the garden include additional plantings.
“God bless Keith,” Banks said. “It’s such a beautiful, beautiful gift. It’ll live on forever, way beyond Matthew’s years,” Banks said.