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Building a garden to attract pollinators and community involvement

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

In a wonderful example of a positive outcome resulting from a negative incident, we are working to install a pollinator garden at the front of the Olean Center for education and beautification purposes. We’re calling it The People’s Garden!

When completed, our drab exterior will feature native plantings selected to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators to add a colorful, lively greeting for staff, participants, families, and those passing by on busy Airport Road.

Many of you will recall that two years ago, our fleet of vehicles was vandalized when the catalytic converters were stolen from them. This event, and other trespassing incidents, led to the decision to install security cameras. But before they could be installed, we needed to remove vegetation from the front of the building to improve sightlines for the cameras. We were left with a barren exterior and an uninviting entrance.

By installing this colorful pollinator garden, designed to encourage visits primarily by hummingbirds and butterflies, individuals at the Center will learn more about pollinators, and enjoy the garden’s natural beauty. The garden can also serve as inspiration for participants in our Art Therapy classes.

The garden will be 45 feet wide and 14 feet deep, so it will significantly spruce up the front of the building. We purposely selected plants that would not be favorites of the bees, out of an abundance of caution for obvious reasons!

Grant writer Jeanie Herzog selected all the plants with our New England winters in mind. Plants that remain colorful year-round will take center stage in colder months after the colorful blossoms of summer and fall are long gone.

A grant of $7,629 from the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District will partially fund construction, plantings, and tools, but we are required to match that grant. We hope you will consider a gift that you can watch blossom for years to come by either making a financial donation or volunteering hours, which can also be applied to the match requirement. If you can donate your time and gardening talents, please email us at and put Garden volunteer in the subject line.

A related benefit of the garden is the opportunity for us to expose all the good work of the Center to other members of the community.

We will reach out to our friends at the Westerly Recreation Department to invite area children to help create and maintain the garden. Additionally, we plan to enlist help from the Rotary and Lions clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, church groups, and others to construct the beds, plant, and maintain the garden. Stay tuned for our official call for volunteers!

We envision a true People’s Garden, one that benefits both the Olean Center and the Greater Westerly Community as well.

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