A place to breathe
Serpico Landscaping services a location where nature serves as a much-needed calming influence.
By Brian Horn
“Oh no! Not if I can help it.”
That was Sharon Serpico Hanson’s reaction in 2009 when she saw a news story about George Mark Children’s House in the greater San Francisco area having to close for funding reasons.
The next day she called the organization and said Serpico would care for their grounds for free, which the company has been doing since April of 2009.
George Mark Children’s House is a nonprofit organization that operates a pediatric palliative care center. The 15,000 square-foot house sits on 5 acres of land and helps families with sick children live in a more relaxed environment.
“Every child has what would be considered a life-limiting illness,” says Ken Sommer, director of advancement at the house. The home has three different programs:
- Respite care – This gives a break to families who have to provide constant care for their child. “The child will stay here for anywhere from a weekend to a couple of weeks,” Sommer says. “The mom and dad know that the medical needs for the child will be taken care of and then maybe they can have a night off.”
- Transitional care – The child has a life-limiting illnesses and they've been in the hospital for an extended period of time. They no longer have to be in the acute hospital, but they're not quite ready to go home or the family isn't ready for them to come home. “We'll take them here, continue for some treatments, could be chemo or something like that, and then the real beauty of it is we'll help train the parents how to take care of that child,” Sommer says.
- End of life care – “That's typically about 25 percent of our patients,” he says.
Sommer says in 2010 the house closed for six months, and is doing better now financially, but still not completely out of the woods. That’s why Serpico’s volunteer work is so important, along with the physical improvements they do to help the patients and their families.
“They are here every single Tuesday with their crew of guys who do an impeccable job of maintaining the grounds,” he says. “So having the beautiful scenery outside the windows is very settling and relaxing, but likewise, getting our kids and families out into this beautiful environment – again, it just helps the mind, body and spirit.”
A couple of years ago, Serpico Hanson says the company wanted to have a different branch do the work to spread the costs around, but that disappointed the current crew.
“That crew came to their manager and said, 'Please do not take this account away from us. We want to continue doing this. This is about why we come to work. It's so important to us.' And I get emotional just even thinking about that because it's absolutely the core of the values that we talk about at Serpico,” she says.
Carson Brown, a branch manager who works on the property, recalls a time he was about to do a quality inspection and his crew stopped him and asked him to avoid a garden. From a distance he could see a family consoling each other.
“Before I left, we were approached by a person from the group that was gathered,” Brown says. “She stated how much they appreciated us not working in this area while they were there and that they were going inside.
“She also told me that they love the gardens and use them all of the time to gather themselves. It means a lot to me that these gardens means so much to the families and that Serpico has become a known member of this great place.”
Brown also says he feels a personal connection to the house. “I have friends and family who have lost children and it is unimaginable the grief they deal with,” he says. “It is truly a tranquil setting where they can meditate or just enjoy not being restricted to their rooms.”
Good Works: Have you completed a charity project you are proud of or helped out your community in another way? Email Managing Editor Brian Horn at email@example.com to be considered for coverage in a future issue of Lawn & Landscape.
The industry celebrates Day of Service
Taking place on Earth day, the national event had nearly 60 registered projects.
As a way to celebrate Earth Day and unite the green industry around giving back to the community, NALP’s annual Day of Service took place on April 22, with nearly 60 registered projects done in 24 states across the U.S.
Started in 2009, a total of 1,000 projects have been completed by 16,000 volunteers for a value of $4 million.
Using the hashtag #PLANETDOS, companies tweeted pictures of crews and projects throughout the day as jobs were completed. Lawn & Landscape has compiled a number of the projects.
AmericanHort – Ohio
In honor of Earth Day, AmericanHort maintained the landscape outside of the company’s office. Two honeybee hives were installed and plans were made to incorporate a pollinator garden into the landscape when the weather gets warmer. Staff also planted a new tri-colored beech tree and cleaned up litter around the neighborhood.
Bartlett Tree Experts – Maryland
As part of Day of Service, Bartlett passed out seedling trees to students, community groups and local reforestation efforts.
Bland Landscaping – North Carolina
Bland’s estate gardening team did a workday with the farmers at Burkett Farm. The floriculture and account managing team donated design and install of annuals for a project. On the following day, various team members donated two home landscapes for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.
Grasshopper Lawns – Pennsylvania
The company donated time and services to a local soccer field, McDade Park, in Scranton. Grasshopper Lawns gave the field a proper spring start up, including aeration and seeding, fertilizing, weed control and liming.
Milosi Landscape – Tennessee
Milosi provided landscape services to the Hendersonville Public Library. The company refurbished the landscape, including plant bed maintenance, shrub and tree pruning, new mulch, weed control and plant health care. A sensory garden for the children’s area was also installed.
GrowinGreen - North Carolina
GrowinGreen partnered with the Victory Junction Gang Camp to prep the camp’s entrance for campers arriving this season. Victory Junction enriches the lives of children with serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun and empowering, at no cost the children or their families.
For more pictures of other projects done for Day of Service, head to NALP’s flickr page.
5 steps to staying safe
Q: What are your recommendations for developing an effective safety and health training program?
A: 1) Create safety and health policies and procedures.
This should include management’s full commitment to a comprehensive safety and health training program for all employees. Policies should be written and shared with all employees, especially during your new worker orientation.
2) Identify all regulations and laws related to worker safety and health that impact your firm.
These may be local, state or federal regulations that you will need to comply with.
3) Identify all hazards that may expose your employees to injury or illness.
Rank the identified hazards based on work environments, equipment, chemicals, etc. Ranking these hazards helps you prioritize the time available for worker training.
4) Develop and deliver training based on the prioritized hazards identified in Step 3.
Include selecting training materials from reputable providers like NALP, insurance companies and universities (Kansas State, Ohio State, etc.). Also ensure that all training is documented regarding date, topic and presenter and is signed off on by all attendees. Documentation of training is important if you are subjected to an inspection.
5) Evaluate all safety and health programs using a minimum of post-tests to determine if the trainees learned from their training programs. You may also include a brief pre-test to determine their knowledge level before the training was delivered and compare it to your post-training results. If the training evaluation indicates shortfalls, retraining may be required on a group or one-on-one basis.
Landscape work involves the use of some type of equipment or tools depending on the services provided.
Lawn maintenance, for example, often requires using commercial equipment such as zero-turn mowers or larger mowing equipment. It is important to include the various types of equipment under the equipment listing.
Zero-turns have proven to be very dangerous for untrained workers using them at work sites with uneven terrain, drop-offs and water-retention areas.
Zero-turns and other commercial equipment can be quite noisy. Personal protective equipment in the form of hearing protection is very important and should be part of the training for all equipment.
Proving training in both English and Spanish is critical if some of your workers are not fluent in English. They need to understand the training and you may need to take into consideration Latinos’ culture and beliefs about safety and health issues. One example is eye protection and the need for certified eyewear.
During a project I conducted in the Chicago area, Latino workers were very concerned about the appearance of their eyewear and often resisted protective eyewear in place of more fashionable sunglasses.
It was an uphill battle, but most workers were willing to wear the new generation of eyewear that meets the ANSI Z-87.1 (2010) standard.
Depending on your equipment, there are many items that can create hazardous work conditions unless your employees are adequately trained and follow your safety procedures at all times. You may need to develop employee remediation practices for those workers who refuse to follow the firm’s safety rules.
And remember, all of the components of your safety and health program must be in written form to avoid an inspector writing you up for failure to have a written safety program (a common citation issued by OSHA).
Sam Steel, safety adviser
National Association of Landscape Professionals
Ask the Experts is brought to you in partnership with NALP, the national association of landscape professionals. Questions are fielded through NALP’s Trailblazers, the industry’s leading company mentoring program. For more questions visit www.landscapeprofessionals.org.
Hit the Books
We surveyed horticulture students on a number of items, including what family and friends thought of a green industry major. You can find more results from the survey in the cover story.