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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
The Rev. Shane Chellis checks for weeds around the plantings at Charis House, an extension of the Rescue Mission for women and children.

Charis House hopes garden will provide peace, healing

– The Rev. Shane Chellis grew up a farm boy in northern Michigan, so in a way he found himself right at home Friday walking around the tomato and zucchini plants to mounds of dirt that will one day turn into a pumpkin patch.

“There’s a saying,” Chellis said. “You are no closer to God than when you are in a garden.”

There’s a nurturing to gardening, Chellis said, a patience that you need to have in a world of “iPods and 199 channels with nothing on.”

And the harvest – that first taste of a fresh strawberry, or a tomato you’ve grown yourself. To Chellis, there is not much more rewarding.

“It will be all worth it.”

Chellis is a former drug addict, and he hopes others who may have fallen on hard times will be able to find their reward through tending to a new garden right outside the Charis House.

The Charis House, a place that provides housing and programs for women and children facing a homeless crisis, dedicated the garden this week in honor of a couple who used to live on the property.

When Homer Nusbaum married his wife, Ruth, 72 years ago today, she had never seen the house he had purchased to make their home.

That home was on a plot of land at 431 Fairmount Place.

Now, that plot is the Charis House’s new garden, which was dedicated in honor of the Nusbaums earlier this week.

A black fence was placed around the garden along with a plaque with the Nusbaums’ names.

Ruth is still living. Homer died.

The couple’s daughter, Imogene Nusbaum-Snyder, is on the board for the Rescue Mission, which also operates Charis House.

“Though my father is gone, my mother continues to show their love of flowers, gardens and just being outdoors,” Nusbaum-Snyder said in a written statement earlier this week.

“The garden is given in love not only for my parents, but also for the women and children of Charis House in hopes that it will give them a place to find peace and healing,” the statement said.

The garden was made possible with help from several local vendors including Emerald Lawn Care, Arrow Fence, Buesching’s Peat Moss and The Baldus Co.

Officials hope the garden can provide a place and activity for teaching a nurturing relationship with God.

And they want that to work especially with people who might have serious problems, like addictions.

“Most addicts have to get their fix now,” Chellis said. “Things need to be grown. Things need to take time.”

Now, the garden is small, with a few smattering of plants.

But soon enough tomatoes are expected to sprout and zucchini will grow and ripen. There will be peppers, and the pumpkin patch will be in full bloom, spreading vines over the black fence surrounding the garden.

And for Chellis, this gardening is his therapy, he said, something that helps him get in touch with his spirituality.

He’s hoping it’s the same for others, as well.