Dale Griffin places donated plants into a pot to place around the new serenity garden at Congregations for the Homeless in Bellevue. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo

Dale Griffin places donated plants into a pot to place around the new serenity garden at Congregations for the Homeless in Bellevue. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo

Homeless men build a garden of good hope at Congregations for the Homeless

Men at CFH start a serenity garden.

The men at Congregations for the Homeless were gathered in one of their weekly meetings when a staff member mentioned the idea of a group project. It was Dale Griffin who shared the idea of building a serenity garden that would involve everyone who was willing to help.

Griffin has been at CFH for about a year. He’s involved in the program and wanted to give back to the organization that helped change his life.

“It’s helpful in more ways than I can say,” Griffin said. “It propelled me way beyond what I could’ve done on my own. Way beyond. They’re like an extended family to me.”

The purpose of the project was to create a garden of hope for everyone to enjoy. The men, volunteers and staff started by cleaning the area. They pulled weeds, cleared rocks and trimmed trees. What seemed to be a simple project took a lot of manual work and many people were involved. It was a collective effort. The group plans to complete the garden by spring.

But Griffin took it a step further, adding his own sculptures to the garden.

The sculptures in the garden are made out of repurposed material. Griffin says his designs relied on the available materials. He used old shower drains, CDs, discs and an umbrella to build the sculptures. It was a whimsical idea that simply developed along the way. The men even received donations from Goodwill, The Home Depot and QFC.

Griffin shared how building the sculptures and cleaning the garden filled a void. It took focus away from their life situations. Each design was placed with purpose.

“The point is to look up — to look up and hope for better things,” Griffin said.

CFH’s mission is to end homeless on the Eastside by helping men make the transition from life on the street to stable, independent living.

Executive director David Bowling shared the various avenues that lead to homelessness. Every man’s story is different in the way they find themselves at the shelter.

“There are many different paths into homelessness,” Bowling said. “Each guy has a unique story, and our goal is to build authentic and accepting relationship with the guys. To meet them where they’re at, get an understanding of who they are, and understanding the barriers and strengths they have, so that we can uniquely support each guy in the way he needs in order to move forward.”

Bowling said they strive to provide the foundation for relationship-compassion, empowerment, respect and community to the men they serve.

“Our goal is to bridge them back to mainstream society. Help them see their worth, dignity, and meaning,” he said.

Claudia Browers is a volunteer who mirrors that foundation for relationship-compassion. Browers has volunteered at CFH for 13 years and says she deeply values the organization.

“This program has the right values. The goal eventually, I believe, is to restore their dignity and citizenship,” Browers said. “I appreciate this program’s willingness to work with any of the guys, wherever they are, at whatever level.”

Browers said her hope is to see these men out in the community feeling whole.

Both Bowling and Browers believe projects like this are where men feel hope and purpose again.

To learn more about Congregations for the Homeless and the programs they offer visit www.cfhomeless.org

Volunteer, Claudia Browers and Executive Director, David Bowling are proud of all the hard work everyone has done. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo.

Volunteer, Claudia Browers and Executive Director, David Bowling are proud of all the hard work everyone has done. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo.

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