Back to News

Bunnings Kotara give local aged care home a "green thumbs up"

Hero image

The Kotara Bunnings crew have been providing far more than sausages and screwdrivers to the community over the past few weeks, branching their community involvement to Catholic Healthcare’s residential aged care home in Mayfield West, Newcastle.

For several months now, the Bunnings crew have been joining residents of the Charles O’Neill Hostel, supporting them in growing and nurturing their own plants and assisting in the complete redecoration of the Mental Health Aged Care Partnership Initiative (MHCAPI) Transition Unit’s garden.

The initiative was first proposed to the Bunnings store by Catholic Healthcare staff, who sought to obtain what assistance, if any, could be provided to their “blank canvas” garden, and how the crew could help residents in engaging in the outdoor space.

Once Bunnings’ Activity Organiser, Iesa McFarlane saw the garden, she gave a resounding “yes” to support the Hostel’s cause.

“I saw that the garden could really be an opportunity for the residents to get involved – and it’s been more exhilarating than I ever could have imagined,” she says.

Charles O’Neill Hostel’s MHACPI Transition Unit forms an integral component of NSW Health’s Pathways to Community Living Initiative – a coordinated state-wide approach to supporting older people with enduring, serious mental illnesses in re-establishing their lives in the community.

Felicity Smith, Diversional Therapist at Charles O’Neill Hostel, says “regaining a sense of purpose” is incredibly helpful in this transitional process for many of the residents, particularly those living with depression.

“For the residents, something as simple as looking after a plant as it grows can be pivotal to their self-esteem,” she says.

“Not only that, but exposing the residents to the garden means they get other physical benefits, like an increase in Vitamin D.”

The activities started with coaching residents in the basics of gardening, using herbs and vegetables to encourage residents to see the formation of their growth over time leading to an eventual harvest.

Bunnings staff helped install raised garden beds to support residents of all mobility in accessing the garden, as well as a mobile function that would allow those who remained in their rooms to experience the gardens as well.

“They were totally interactive, they really enjoyed it. They can physically see and make an impact with gardening. It has been a very successful program,” stated McFarlane.

Since the success of the raised garden beds, the residents have begun creating a mosaic for the garden, based on Felicity’s proposed objective that the garden should be an enticing place to visit.

After several conversations with fellow Bunnings colleagues, Iesa settled on a giant red butterfly to grace the MHACPI garden; a creature she and others felt “truly reflected” the gentle nature of the home.

“As soon as the concept of a butterfly was mentioned, I got goosebumps,” she says. “It just fits the MHACPI unit so well.”

The residents are continuing to work on piecing together the mosaic with the help of the Bunnings crew and the Charles O’Neill staff, who have ambitions to submit the homegrown veggies to local shows in the coming months.  

“While we were hit with a bit of a scorcher in the Summer, we’re still presenting some of the vegetables to the Newcastle show, and have high hopes for getting our capsicums to the Maitland show in a few months’ time,” says Felicity.

“The residents would be so proud to see their hard work on display. There’s no denying that this kind of community involvement is a game-changer for the residents and their sense of purpose.”