As a young girl, Moon Township native Lisa Story was always drawn to nature exploring and, as an adult, became an avid flower gardener. Now she’s found a way to combine her love of the natural world with a heart to help others who are caregivers to loved ones.
After caregiving her father before he passed away in 2015, Lisa Story realized two things: that others who care for loved ones in the Pittsburgh community need more support and care themselves, and the restorative power of gardening.
“I needed to heal my mind, body, and soul after my dad passed, so I planted my first vegetable garden,” shares Lisa, who is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Thanatologist and has worked in hospice care and grief counseling. With a master’s of science in counseling psychology from Chatham University, a certificate in addictions counseling from Waynesburg University, and a certificate in horticultural therapy from the Horticultural Therapy Institute in Denver, Colorado, her educational background serves as the perfect complement to her professional training and her vision for combining gardening and caregiver support.
“I couldn’t help but notice the positive changes to my physical, psychological and spiritual stress associated with the loss. My belief in the restorative power of planting in addition to divine intervention through a dream from my late father led me to found Hope Grows in 2010.” She presently serves as executive director.
The company’s mission is to inspire hope through nature while empowering caregivers to seek mind-body-soul wellness. “Our staff, network of volunteers, and our board of directors seek to put an end to caregiver death and be the organization that caregivers trust and turn to receive personalized assistance, therapeutic services, and resources at any point in their journey—regardless of their financial means.
“Hope Grows’ programs are designed to provide options and solutions for the caregiver,” Lisa explains. “Our staff is certified to provide counseling in both one-on-one or group settings. Our garden serves as a place of respite for caregivers who are dedicating much of their time to support those who need them.”
Hope Grows focuses its support and services into the following three areas:
• Counseling and Support – through mental health counseling, support groups and psycho-education to caregivers and their families. This support encourages caregivers to process their stress in a healthy way and enhances the skills they need to most effectively care for their loved ones.
• Therapeutic Respite – therapeutic activities through which caregivers can rest, rejuvenate and focus on self-care, including respite through restorative gardening and connecting with nature.
• Education and Training – professional education and training to enhance the one’s knowledge of the professional healthcare community as it relates to the family caregiver.
By participating in the Hope Grows therapeutic model, Lisa says that caregivers can begin to relieve stress, restore energy and gain balance. “We attend to the caregiver’s individual needs, drawing on all three of these focus areas.”
For those who have access to a phone and/or the Internet, Hope Grows offers a virtual program, called “Think Caregiver”, which connects caregivers to personalized support and community support across a vast national network. This program can be accessed by calling (412) 369-4673 or hopegrows.net. On this website, caregivers can also sign up for Care Call Check-ins, or calls at regular intervals to check on the caregiver and offer emotional support and resources.
Into the future, Lisa has plans to open a respite house so caregivers can break away from their responsibilities on a temporary basis overnight, if even for a few hours, and participate in counseling and support, as needed.
“Whether you find yourself in a caregiver role for the first time, have spent years being a caregiver, or have already lost the person you were caring for, we understand the unique challenges that you face,” Lisa conveys. As our name implies, we strive to plant hope, one seed at a time. All this requires seasons of cultivating and tending to the needs of each caregiver, and that’s our goal.
Hope Grows is located at 183 Shafter Road in Moon Township. To learn more, call (412) 369-4673 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gina Mazza
For Beaver County Senior News
Photos by Chuck LeClaire for Beaver County Senior News