Barbara McCord, 68, retired on May 14 from Tri-Valley Developmental Services as its’ horticulture therapist after 17 years.
Tri-Valley staff work with an adult population that has intellectual disabilities.
McCord developed the horticulture therapy program for Tri-Valley.
She received her bachelor of science degree in horticultural therapy at K-State in 1975.
After graduating, she worked at Melwood Farm, Maryland, for several years, she said. They worked with people with intellectual disabilities to improve their social, work, physical, and mental skills by being involved in the daily activities in a greenhouse setting.
She then worked in her family’s business, the Fort Scott Greenhouse for 40 years. When the family sold the business she knew she wanted to return to horticulture therapy.
Her dream job would become a reality in 2004 when Tri-Valley wanted to develop a horticulture therapy program, she said.
“We didn’t have a pot, a bag of soil, or any plant materials to start the program – really nothing at all that was related to the plant world,” she said. “Funds were raised through grants and the generosity of our community to provide a state-of-the-art experience for our clients.”
Her biggest challenge was to design and fund a greenhouse in 2007, she said.
“With the support of the community and the 24/7 backing of my husband, David, we were able to establish the greenhouse and plant the seed for the current horticultural therapy program,” she said.
A 2,100 sq. ft. greenhouse and a patio area with raised bed gardens were created and made accessible to the clients. and also an in-ground flower and vegetable garden.
Cooking, art, and educational classes were developed through the years.
“This opened up many new opportunities for our clients,” she said.
McCord said people often misunderstand people with disabilities.
“It became my mission to establish a program that would move us towards a more inclusive environment,” she said.
“Horticulture became the perfect bridge between our agency and Fort Scott,” she said. “People opened up their arms when we first started.”
They offered plant materials and supplies, supported the bi-annual Gardener’s Christmas Auction, civic groups purchased plants to use for fundraisers, provided plants for the city hanging baskets and gardens, the Fort Scott High School construction class helped build the greenhouse as well as wholesale to local retailers.
“This gave our clients a chance to become an integral part of the town,” she said. “Our community has been such a vital part in establishing our program; I cannot say thank you enough.”
“I will miss the conversations, smiles, and friendships that I have had with the clients and staff at Tri-Valley,” she said. “Many strong relationships were formed while working with the clients and I will always have a deep respect for their accomplishments and positive attitudes.”
Austin Bolinger Replaces McCord
Since last fall, McCord has mentored Austin Bolinger to take her position at Tri-Valley.
“I feel extremely fortunate to be able to hand over such a successful program and to watch Austin make it into a bigger and better program,” she said.
Community Involvement Will Keep Her Busy
McCord is involved with a local PEO chapter, co-president of the Bourbon County Garden Club, plays in the Iola Symphony, and volunteers with Special Olympics.
“My garden will now come first, along with music, as well as creative outlets like needlepoint, watercolor, building garden sculptures, etc., these will be a few items that I will enjoy filling my time with.”
Having worked her entire life, retirement is going to be an adjustment, she said, but she and her husband David are planning to travel.
“Spending time with nieces/nephews and their families will also become a priority,” she said. “I would like to continue to add color and beauty to our community through the world of plants.”
“Don’t be surprised if you see me kneeling in a flower bed somewhere around town,” she said.