Mercy Garden Volunteers

A Dream with a View

Residents at Mercy Gardens, a Mercy Housing community in San Diego, wanted to create a sense of solace for their neighborhood. A small patch of land with a view just outside their front door had so much potential. They knew, with a little help, they could turn this small patch of mulch into something beautiful that would enrich the entire neighborhood and provide a sense of calm and belonging for everyone.

Some of the Residents at Mercy Gardens are overcoming a variety of health and trauma problems. The small underused patch of land just outside their front doors had a few benches, a wonderful view, but not much else. A resident read a magazine article by the American Society of Landscape Architecture about meditation gardens — they’re a place to find peace, and quiet. Turning this little parcel of land into a meditation garden was ambitious, but residents saw potential where no one else had. They believed that a little love, care, and attention could transform a vacant space into a place of harmony and growth.

Eric QuoteEric is the Resident Services Coordinator for Mercy Gardens. Daily, he works with residents to support them in a variety of capacities to ensure that they gain access to healthcare, education, and career opportunities to pursue their dreams of brighter futures. Residents reached out to Eric to see what they could do to make this dream come into fruition. He agreed to do what he could and contacted the San Diego branch of the American Society of Landscape Architecture about their ambition to create a meditation garden. “They said that we [Mercy Gardens] should apply for a grant that they had for a project like this. I thought ‘why not, let’s go for it!’” Eric says reflecting on how it all started.

Volunteers GatheredCompetition for the grant was tough — dozens of nonprofits were applying, many with professional grant writers. Residents and Eric rolled up their sleeves and did it themselves, hoping for the best, but knowing that they were the underdogs in this without a full-time grant writer like many of the other applicants. They hadn’t written a grant before. But they had faith in themselves and so did the larger community and that made all the difference. “When a former mayor and other politicians contributed letters of support for our grant, we really started to think we had a chance,” Eric says. They had more than a chance, they were awarded the $5,000 grant!

After finding success writing the grant together, residents and Eric continued their collaboration to design and even build the Meditation Garden with the help of United Way volunteers.

“I really just listened to them, they knew way more about the plants than I did and had a nice concept for the layout.” — Eric, Mercy Gardens, Resident Services Coordinator

Residents PlantingToday, the garden is complete thanks to the collective efforts from the entire community, from individuals to organizations. Eric was inspired with the residents’ compassion for their neighbors saying, “It was never the plan to make a space just for us [Mercy Housing], residents thought that doctors and patients at the neighboring hospital would enjoy the space too, so that was incorporated from the outset of planning.”

Patients, physicians, and nurses use the Meditation Garden today to find solitude in a stressful world. Other community members and organizations noticed what a great contribution this space had become and wanted to contribute. ‘The Center’ (San Diego LGBTQ Community Center) recognized what a positive impact the Meditation Garden was having on the community and made a donation that allowed them to purchase a grill. Now, they can have cookouts and enjoy the garden together with their neighbors.

Planted Garden“It’s meant so much to everyone in this community. Some of the residents at Mercy Gardens are struggling with serious issues like depression, are living with HIV, and other problems that aren’t easy to face alone. It’s so valuable to have a quiet place for everyone to come together to support each other,” Eric says.

This Meditation Garden embodies the spirit of hope that lies within the notion of a stable home. Today, residents have a place to find tranquility and focus on building brighter futures. Overcoming personal hurdles and finding solace, residents chose to share the stability they’ve found, to beautify and support the neighborhood. Mercy Gardens’ success with the Meditation Garden offers a lesson in the power of mercy and how showing compassion to others can blossom in ways you couldn’t have foreseen. Now, residents, patients, doctors, and community members enjoy their garden with a gorgeous view of a valley, and it came together because people cared, listened, and acted.