Marks Law Group LLC October 2019




G ardening is an incredibly therapeutic exercise. It gets people out in the sun, engaging with the environment and working with their hands. Gardeners get the satisfaction of taking care of another living thing — and that becomes much more satisfying when you can’t take care of yourself. This is the basis of horticultural therapy and the goal of Trellis Horticultural Therapy Alliance’s services. We want to help people with disabilities of all ages and demographics discover the joy of helping something live and grow. As the caretaker of a person with a disability, I understand firsthand how beneficial something like gardening can be. In February of 2014, my daughter Lydia was hit by a car and suffered a severe head injury or traumatic brain injury. After she was released from the hospital three months later, she couldn’t eat, walk, or speak. I resigned from my job as a grant writer at Georgia Tech and became her full-time caregiver. This experience helped me gain a better understanding of the challenges people with disabilities face every day and what they need in an attempt to feel whole and included. At the time of Lydia’s accident, I was already a student of the Horticultural Therapy Institute where I met Wendy Battaglia and found we had a shared passion. We wanted to start our own horticultural therapy practice, and, right after we received our horticultural therapy certification, we got to work to make it happen. It took a few years to get everything off the ground, but we officially launched the nonprofit Trellis in December of 2017. Over the past couple of years, we’ve worked with people in mental health treatment, special education students, at-risk youth, and senior populations in the metro Atlanta area. While

we enjoy working with a variety of populations, at some point, we’ll have to take a step back and really dial in our scope, but for now, we love introducing whomever we can to the therapeutic properties of gardening. People in these groups, especially those living with cognitive impairment, like my daughter, are often isolated, and getting them involved in group activities can help them break out of that environment and find a community with shared interests. Some of our other projects have included Grounded in Gardening, where we design wheelchair accessible gardens to make it possible for someone in a wheelchair to garden in their backyard independently. One of our newer programs, the Give Back Garden, provides organic farming skills to incarcerated women to help them learn skills that can help them when they’re released. We also do a lot of work with senior communities, some of whom don’t have an outdoor space. We lead workshops on herbs, flower arrangements, pressed flower art — you name it, and we’ve probably done it. It’s hard when we can’t do any actual gardening with them, but tapping into that human desire to continually learn through connecting with nature even when they’re getting older is invaluable. I love seeing the impact that horticultural therapy can have on people, but running a nonprofit takes a lot of work. Not only are Wendy and I designing and leading all the projects but also we’re in charge of raising funds for our cause. After Lydia’s accident, Aaron Marks negotiated with the insurance companies to make sure we received just compensation from the accident. He called me about a year later to ask how we were doing. I told him about starting up Trellis, and he soon became one of our first funders. Since then, he’s always taken an interest in what we do to improve the life of others. It’s challenging getting a nonprofit off the ground, but having supporters behind you who are passionate about serving the community makes it that much easier. We’re thankful that Marks Law Group helps us bring horticultural therapy to people in the Atlanta area. –Rachel Cochran

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