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Washington Seniors’ Garden a special place in the sun and shade

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There is a not-so-secret garden tucked away behind the apartment building at 1 Washington Crescent in Elliot Lake.
The Washington Seniors’ Garden is maintained by volunteers who live in any Elliot Lake Retirement Living (ELRL) apartment buildings.
The garden was founded in 1991 and dedicated by Alexandra Farkouh. The garden has about 30 plots, says Jim Preston, a resident of 1 Washington and a volunteer at the garden.
The 10-foot-by-10-foot plots are cared for by residents of various ELRL apartment buildings, says Preston.
“So, no matter where you are in Elliot Lake, as long as you’re a tenant of theirs you can get a plot.”
Most of the tenants have vegetable gardens, but a few maintain a flower garden, he says.
“A lot of the vegetables get donated back to the people in the buildings that need them.
“We had one guy who distributed to 57 people one year.”
Preston says, he like others, gives carrots, lettuce and other vegetables to people in the building.
He has maintained a plot in the garden for the past five years, since he moved to 1 Washington.
A more recent addition to the garden’s grounds are the Canadian, provincial and territorial flags.
It was started by a tenant (Captain) Jack Holyday three years ago when he got the Canadian flag from the Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes. He then got the Ontario flag from the Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha. Next came the Franco-Ontario flag.
This year a couple of tenants, Ricky and Catherine Marcotte, donated another 14 flags of the provinces, territories as well as another Canadian flag.
He says they got permission from ELRL as well as the city to fly the flags, since the garden is on municipal property.
Another resident, Guy Bonneville was able to secure the Metis flag, which was donated by Donna Calina.
The last flag, which is flying above the garden, is the ‘Honour Our Troops’ flag, which was donate by Elaine Tremblay.
Preston says they would like to be able to fly a few more flags.
“We’re looking for Anishnawbe flags,” from Serpent River First Nation and Mississauga First Nation.
But they have to be donations because they are all volunteers and do have not money to buy the flags. Preston says they can cost as much $85 each.
Another major volunteer in the garden is Norm Bisson. He has done a lot of work and even donated the gazebo and the table, says Preston.
However, the flags won’t be flying in the garden very long. Preston says because the flags are expensive, they will be taken down to preserve them from fading in the sun. But they will be flown again to mark Canada’s 155th birthday in 2022.
Preston says they also entered the garden in the city’s Canada Day Contest. They came in sixth place.
He says having the garden really help many through the COVID-19 pandemic. Tenants couldn’t leave their homes except for essentials, they used to have functions prior to the pandemic, but they all had to be cancelled.

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Moving to Elliot Lake
Preston and his wife moved to Elliot Lake from Collingwood in 2016. While Collingwood is also considered to be a retirement community, “It’s a little more expensive,” he says.
In addition, he enjoys the outdoors including the local fishing and golfing, as well as gardening.
“We just showed up here one day because of an advertisement two years before we moved here. We came up again when we retired.”
He says they have no plans to leave Elliot Lake.
“I find Elliot Lake is a very, very, very good community. My wife and I both enjoy it here.”
He really enjoys fishing and says, “You’re sitting on a river bank and you say to yourself ‘Years ago I’d have paid thousands of dollars for this.’
“And it’s the same with the golf course. We golfed here on Monday and it’s just like having your own private golf course. There is hardly anybody else out there. There’s no push, no shove, no rush.”
It’s also like that in the community.
“Every once in a while you get annoyed when pass in front of you when you’re stopped at a Stop sign. Like when’s this traffic going to end,” he says with a laugh.

Photo by KEVIN McSHEFFREY/THE STANDARDJim Preston
Photo by KEVIN McSHEFFREY/THE STANDARDJim Preston
Photo by KEVIN McSHEFFREY/THE STANDARDJim Preston is a tenant at 1 Washington Crescent and a volunteer at the Washington Seniors’ Garden. He and other volunteers added flags to the garden for July Canada’s birthday month.
Photo by KEVIN McSHEFFREY/THE STANDARDJim Preston is a tenant at 1 Washington Crescent and a volunteer at the Washington Seniors’ Garden. He and other volunteers added flags to the garden for July Canada’s birthday month.

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