Members of the Knights of Columbus in Alberta have built a raised garden for a maternal care home to provide the women and their children with fresh vegetables.

Two new garden beds were added to the backyard of the Elizabeth House in Calgary, which provides at-risk-women and single mothers with a safe place to raise their baby.

Michelle Haywood, the program coordinator for Elizabeth House, told CNA that the garden not only provides fresh vegetables, but the backyard has also become a place of refuge for the women during the pandemic.

"We have green grass that the babies can play on. We have patio furniture that the women can go and enjoy. It has become a refuge especially in a time right now where leaving your house to go anywhere in public you're taking a risk," she said.

"It means that they have somewhere in the back where they can play and adventure and feel safe. The garden is also important in terms of it's a sense of pride, like watching something go from seed to crate is an incredible journey."

The Elizabeth House, founded in 1996, moved to their current property about five years ago after structural problems were discovered at the previous house. Left behind were a garden and a Marian grotto.

At the residence, the women are provided with a fully furnished bedroom, food, and child care. They are helped to find medical and education resources, and can be given help to connect with estranged relatives.

The program is fully funded by the Diocese of Calgary through private donations. 

"We were started by the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis, the Catholic order of nuns here in Calgary, who had a heart for homeless young women who found themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy," said Haywood.

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"We're here to build relationships, build trust, and to promote healing and to help young women raise their child right in love and security … [It's] such an incredible time in a child's life to have this kind of wrap-around support."

Haywood said the organization has provided many women with the freedom and means to rediscover their faith. She said even the new garden has been a source of teaching.

"We can use [the plants] as a talking point … We can pinch off the broken parts and launch new sprouts. I think when we're talking about why this garden is here and what it brings to us, it brings a completely new way, a new perspective of looking at, I guess, the challenges that we've been through and we're going through," she said.

"A lot of times the biggest impact we can have [is] sitting out on that green grass, being with the women in a very connected, very grounded way … It may be the first time in her life that she can trust someone."

The Knights of Columbus struck up a relationship with Elizabeth House four years ago and have continued to support the women by developing the facility's landscape.

In 2017, they raised $15,000 to help redo the entire backyard, adding new soil, irrigation, patio, furniture, and a grill. Following the project's completion a year and a half ago, the Knights then offered another $10,000 to landscape the front yard. This year, they spent $2,000 to refurbish plants and build the garden.

Peter Dugandzic, who has been in the Knights for 15 years, expressed the importance of the Elizabeth House. He said the Knights will continue to support the group, noting that the Knights' next project will be to construct a Marian grotto in the backyard. He said the Knights are already in contact with the previous designer of the last grotto and they expect construction to begin in the fall.

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"[This facility provides] for these young ladies and it brings in the appropriate support to help them emotionally, financially, and from a health perspective to ensure that they're under the best of care and that they begin a new life with a stable environment for success moving forward in terms of helping them develop life skills, a plan for the future, which would include education," he told CNA.

"We'll continue to support this work as the Knights of Columbus because it's consistent with our faith but also because we believe that we're having a positive impact on the ladies' lives moving forward. We take great pride in being able to help any way we can."