Pioneer Memorial Park

Fall colors punctuate the Pioneer Memorial Park on Tuesday morning. Staff photo by Sam Stockbridge

The Ketchikan High School Rotary Interact Club has set to work helping the Ketchikan Pioneer Home garden bloom.  

The school's Rotary Interact Club (about 60 students strong) has been partnering with the Pioneer Home for various projects for the past 10 years, club president and Kayhi senior Jodee Paule told the Daily News on Monday.

So when the chance to provide care and maintenance for the small garden near the building came up earlier this year, the club jumped on the opportunity.

"Alma Parker ... she reached out to us, told us there was a section of the garden that just needed some help and they weren't making it through, so we checked it out," Paule said. "We can go in and work on it while still being connected to the Pioneer Home."

Because the garden is so close to the home, the students can keep up their relationship with the residents as they work.

"From where we are, we can see the whole building, and we can wave to them (the residents) and say 'hey,'" Paule said.

She added, "I think it's just a good way to see the residents and give them a chance to see us, without being inside the building. So I think in some sort of way, we're still there."

And there's still plenty of work to be done in the garden. The club members try to visit the garden once a week, but recent weather has held back that plan.

"We're definitely still in the works," Paule said.

Paule noted that there is a "section of concrete that looks like there is actually a bench there" in the garden, and hopes to turn it into a project for Kayhi welding students.

"I reached out to Meri Miller who is actually our welding teacher over at Kayhi, and she wanted to collaborate and work on a bench for them," Paule said.

The Rotary Interact Club's advisor Marna Cessnun told the Daily News that she hopes to plant flower bulbs in the garden, but there's still clean up that needs to be done.

"It's a garden that's actually established, it's got some large trees and things that need to be cleaned up," Cessnun said during a separate interview with the Daily News. "And (needs) a lot of TLC towards it. There's a place for a bench, which would be great. It's just pulling up weeds because I think things have been so stretched with the state and everything that nobody's really been out there cleaning that up."

Cessnun said that when talking with Paule recently, the students are all engaged in the project.

"I'm really impressed with the group of kids that are involved because, like Jodee was telling me, she said, 'I'm not having to beg people to show up,'" Cessnun said. "And it has a leadership style now, where not just the leaders are doing things. They're asking for help. They're getting help. They're pretty organized. I'm pretty amazed."

It's projects like the garden clean-up that keep students engaged in the club, according to Cessnun.

"That's how you keep your membership and that's how you keep people involved, that's how you teach them about service," Cessnun said. "So it will be nice to have a project that they can work on."

The garden also provides a space for the club to meet, during a time where COVID-19 keeps meetings limited to the Kayhi auditorium, in two sessions to keep the group small.

"It's nice to have them all together, but it's just not feasible right now," Cessnun said. "It's been great."