Student builds SAFFT Garden

A garden where bonds grow stronger

Student hopes her garden will reconnect families
by Aldo Nahed
Editor, Forsyth Herald

May 16, 2011

CUMMING, Ga. — Martina Vis has planted an outdoor garden that she hopes will grow family bonds.

The 16-year-old junior at West Forsyth High School said she hopes the gardens will promote interaction between the foster children and their biological families at Safft, Inc., (Supporting Adopted and Foster Families Together), located off Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Cumming.

Safft is a nonprofit that provides supervised visitations required by the juvenile courts and Division of Family and Children Services. It also provides parenting classes to the community.

“I’m in the process of finishing up an activity book, which will have interactive activities,” Vis said.

The idea is that in her alphabet-themed garden, parents and their child can “go through the alphabet and find letters.”
There are 15 small gardens with different themes. In the alphabet garden, one can find lilies, for the letter “L,” or look for violets for the letter “V.” In the zoo-themed garden, one can look for lamb’s ears, butterfly bush and catnip.

 “It’s beautiful,” said Millie Evans, a supervisor of visits at the nonprofit. “It has helped the overall appearance of our backyard.”

One of the goals is that a family will plant a seed in one of the raised garden beds, and each week when they visit, they can watch the seeds grow into a plant.

Together, the parent and child will care for the plant, thus bonding during their visit.

Two murals — modeled after Atlanta Botanical Garden murals — were painted on the 78-foot-long picket fence around the garden by Aimee Kudela, Vis’ classmate at West Forsyth HS.

“It turned out fabulous,” Vis said.

Vis said she has been planning the garden sin

ce August. She didn’t get her hands in the dirt until March. By then, Vis said

she was able to reach out to local businesses for support, including securing plants, paints and in-kind donations.

“A lot of people were willing to offer help,” Vis said.
Lynn Martiny, a master gardener, gave her advice on which plants to get, along with

 Kevin Smith of Keep Forsyth County Beautiful. Ace Hardware, Lowe’s and Home Depot made donations to Vis’ garden. She estimates about $3,000 in donations went into the garden project.

 Vis’ idea will also serve as her Girl Scout Gold Award project — the highest and most prestigious award that Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors can earn.

Vis, who plans to pursue a career in the medical field, said people’s reaction to the garden has been positive.

“They had a look at the garden and said, ‘This is more than I ever imagined,'” she said.

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