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Volunteers Go All Out for Gilead House Garden in Novato

Landscape designers work with contractors to create a peaceful sanctuary for single moms and their kids.

When a house is built, most of the budget and planning energy is devoted to the house and its furnishings. The landscaping is often an afterthought.

But three years ago, when landscape designer Cathy Edger saw the plan created by architect Jeffrey Cavener for Novato’s new on Seventh Street, she knew immediately that it was the sort of project for which it would be fun to donate a design. So she contacted friends involved in the project and volunteered to create a design.

Gilead House is a transitional home for single moms who are learn living and occupational skills they to support their families. The house is newly completed and families began moving in July 9.

“The landscape simply could not have been installed without the help of some very generous members of the local landscape community,” Edger said. “In an economy that has hit the landscaping industry especially hard their generosity has been nothing short of miraculous.”

• , a large landscape contracting firm in Novato, donated more than 350 hours of labor for items such as irrigation installation, site preparation, tree and shrub planting.

• Yarish & Associates donated consultation time for site preparation, irrigation design, materials procurement and more.

• Hunter Industries donated major components of the irrigation system such as a smart timer, irrigation valves, and hundreds of feet of irrigation tubing.

Aaron Majors, owner and construction department manager at Cagwin & Dorward, said his company was honored to be a part of the landscape team for Gilead House. The donations kept the landscaping project affordable, an essential factor for a nonprofit that needs to be careful with funds that represent the hard-earned donations of supporters.

“Getting to know Cathy Edger and the deep connection she has with her design vision, as it was built out, was a great experience," Majors said.

Tony Yarish, a Cotati-based landscape consultant and former landscape contractor, volunteers for Gilead House with his wife, Jan, and was the organization’s project manager.

“Since my professional background is in the landscape industry, it was natural for me to serve this project in that capacity,” he said. “Along with an outstanding team of volunteer professionals, we were able to successfully complete this project on time and under budget.”

Local landscape supply businesses and nurseries made big contributions, too, by discounting retail and wholesale materials needed for the project: Shamrock (pavers), Sweet Lane Wholesale Nursery (trees), John Deer Landscapes (irrigation supplies), Marin Landscape Materials (soil amendments and mulch), Landscapes Unlimited Wholesale Nursery (plants), Greenpoint Nursery (plants) and California Bay Nursery (plants).

Work parties held by Edger and Yarish installed many of the smaller plants. The Association of Professional Landscape Designers and volunteers from churches that support the Gilead House program helped plant and mulch the garden during weekend planting parties.

The stucco house, Mediterranean in style, was built to house up to six families plus a house manager. It wraps around an entry courtyard planted with a colorful mix of low maintenance, water-thrifty plants. Closer to the street, fruitless olive trees were planted alongside existing palms to create a loose screen of vegetation between the house and the street and soften the bulk of the large home.

Edger chose the olive trees for several reasons; they require little watering once they are established and they honor the olive oil sales by Gilead House that helps support the program. Winemaking and sales by West Wind Wines in Nicasio have also helped to support the program, so Edger included a grape arbor (for table grapes) over the courtyard entrance gate.

In addition to the table grapes there are other edible plants in the yard. A pomegranate is alongside the driveway. A Washington navel orange and a Eureka lemon flank the pathway that leads through the arbor into the entry courtyard. Besides providing color and screening for privacy in the courtyard, they will give the moms and children access to fresh fruit for the spring and early summer months.

Since the citrus trees are small, there are pumpkins and squashes planted in ground that will eventually be shaded by the trees in years to come. Some of the children who will be moving in to the new house planted sunflower seeds along the courtyard fence in early July. The seeds sprouted about two weeks later and will grow rapidly the rest of the summer.

Flower colors of yellow, blue/violet and white create a cheerful, upbeat environment for the families. Carpets of yellow and white gazanias, and blue ground morning glory abound and when they fill in should suppress weeds.

“These plants need no deadheading and only require a little cutting back once or twice a year, while they offer a long season of color,” Edger said. “I hope the garden will create a sense of welcome and good cheer for the families and especially for the moms who have so many challenges to meet while they are in the Gilead House program.

“A practical place of beauty, utility, and sanctuary is what I was trying to create here.”

To learn more about Gilead House, click here.

SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 July 25, 2011 at 03:29 PM
What a great community effort! What a successful model! Sad to say, the state of California does not count this building toward our housing elements NOR The Habitat for Humanity Houses or or numerous group homes. The state of California supports the high density low income housing industry as it is a cash cow for developers and non-profits. Ask Jared Huffman to change the laws so wonderful Gilead Homes and Habitat for Humanity homes count toward our state affordable housing mandates. These low density homes work and are good for our community, however if they don't pay real estate taxes, they need to count toward our housing quotas, otherwise Novato won't be able to fiscally sustain itself!
Cinda Weisgerber July 25, 2011 at 03:46 PM
The kids living here are already excited about the edible garden - of course they want to pick the flowers on the pumpkin plants right now - but they've learned it is the flowers that will become the pumpkins. This past week, if you blinked, you saw that pumpkins grew another foot.
Sylvia Barry July 25, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Gildead House is one of the projects Soroptimist International of Novato sponsors. Their executive director Jacque McLaughlin came and made a presentation just the other day. It's heartwarming to hear how they change families' lives. So nice to hear that these families that suffered so much can have a nice environment to heal, learn and build a new future together!
Cinda Weisgerber July 25, 2011 at 07:51 PM
Hi Sylvia - I've been filling in as Interim House Manager since July 9th until the new manager arrives in August. This is such a great place and thanks to you and the Soroptimists for your contributions. We appreciate it all so much. If anyone in the community would like to participate in a volunteer capacity, please contact the House Manager via email: housemanager@gileadhouse.org Please be patient if you don't get an immediate response as we are still in "settling in" and "transition" modes ourselves.
Veronica Laboure-Slaughter July 25, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Thank you for your very informative comment. How about an article on this topic Brent?

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