SBEC Volunteer in Bloom

For the past 20 years, Sue and Geoff McCreary have been turning their outdoor living space at their North East home into a series of beautiful gardens. For the last seven of those years, Sue has taken time from her work at home to volunteer at Treasures & Such, a store for participants in St. Benedict Education Center’s (SBEC) job assistance program.

Sue and Geoff’s home and gardens were recently featured in the North East in Bloom Garden Tour, an event that included nearly 20 locations that were open to the public for tours. Their gardens are highlighted by a rustic meandering path through a wooded area dominated by hosta plants, which thrive in shady areas.

Sue and Geoff began transforming their yard when they became “empty nesters” and moved to their North East home, which at the time had no gardens and only a few foundation plants that they didn’t want. “After raising our four children, we now had time to do something other than being involved in their activities,” Sue explained. “We did a lot of ‘planting and moving’ to find what worked. Once we got started, we added more gardens and are now working on the neighboring woods.”

Sue’s husband, Geoff, is the creator and designer of the gardens. Geoff also adds his own unique creations to the spaces, many times made out of repurposed materials. “The flowers by themselves are colorful and usually grow well if placed in proper locations, but the combination of the two complement each other,” Sue said. “It takes both of us to create our garden.”

Sue said she is always amazed that her husband can visualize a sculpture before he creates it. “He is hesitant to tell me about a project since I’m a ‘show me’ person,” Sue said. “One time I asked him to create something to connect two gardens together … and I came home and found a beautiful archway made from pipes and a repurposed piece of copper from a roof.”

When Sue is not working in her gardens or relaxing and enjoying their beauty, she keeps busy trying to improve the lives of others by volunteering at Treasures & Such. Sue learned about the store and the need for volunteers through her church bulletin at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Harborcreek. “It was about the time I retired and thought it was something I could do,” Sue said. “I thought the timing was perfect for me.”

Sue said she wasn’t sure what to expect when she started at the store, but was surprised that the participants, mostly refugees at the time, were eager to have a conversation with her, even though they could speak little or no English. “They are genuine with wanting to better their lives, and I have a new appreciation for the blessings I’ve been given,” Sue said. “The clients clearly appreciate what Sr. Dorothy Stoner (Treasures & Such coordinator) and her team have created to provide for a need in the community.”

Sue said she also enjoys the camaraderie of working with other volunteers and receiving updates on how the participants are progressing. “You make some connections with the people and hear from week to week what’s happening in their lives,” she said.

Sue and Geoff also enjoy sharing their home with others so they can enjoy the gardens and the beautiful location of the property near Sixteen Mile Creek. “As members of North East in Bloom, our purpose is to encourage others to ‘play in the dirt’ and make their homes and our community more inviting by planting flowers,” Sue said. “We enjoy visiting other gardens and are always bringing back ideas to add to our garden. We feel very blessed to have been able to create our garden.”……..and SBEC is very blessed to have Sue’s presence in our midst.