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Wheeling Island urban garden aims to help visually impaired

By SCOTT McCLOSKEY

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — By donating a vacant lot on Wheeling Island to the Seeing Hand Association, former Wheeling residents Aaron and Rhoda Edelman left behind a gift that will provide opportunities for the blind and visually impaired.

Aaron and Rhoda Edelman formerly of Wheeling were honored Tuesday by The Seeing Hand Association for the donation of a lot on Wheeling Island. They are pictured in front of the garden with their daughters and Seeing Hand Executive Director Karen Haught. From left are: Marsha Harvey, Joyce Edelman, Rhoda and Aaron Edelman, Faye Greenlee, and Haught.
(Photo by Scott McCloskey)
Surrounded by dozens of family members and friends, the Seeing Hand Association honored the Edelmans on Tuesday for their donation of the lot on South Broadway Street that’s been transformed into an urban garden, specially adapted to be safe for the organization’s clients.

“The Edelmans were loved by many here in the Wheeling area for decades,” said Karen Haught, Seeing Hand executive director.

In addition to the Edelmans, Haught thanked the Elizabeth Stifel Kline Foundation for sponsoring the garden dedication, as well as the Hoffman Family Foundation, WesBanco, Williams Energy and many volunteers involved for their support of the project.

“What has happened is this place has become alive,” Haught said, relating the story of a neighborhood family who asked if they could pick a bit of produce for their family if they helped in the garden. “I was here that night and those kids picked those tomatoes and were eating them right off the vine, and you would have thought that they had been given a million dollars.”

Rhoda Edelman briefly addressed the crowd during the ceremony, saying her family was grateful to be able to take part in the dedication and celebration.

“You have such a wonderful community and this is such a wonderful addition,” she said.

While the organization sells some of the produce from the garden on Thursdays at its office in North Wheeling, the Seeing Hand Association is now working with a local church to provide vouchers for the underprivileged who are in need of fresh produce. That’s why the garden has expanded to part of a lot next door, according to Haught.

She said the garden has a huge impact on the lives of the visually impaired clients and has led to additional volunteer support and revenue for the agency.

Haught said the garden continues to be a “work in progress,” and has gone through many phases over the past four years. She said the garden is designed to assist visually impaired and blind clients with its vertical layout. She said the tall wooden stakes and wooden chip paths assist them with maneuvering around the garden.

“Backed by our board of directors, our clients, our donors and the community, the garden will continue to be a viable source of income and educational outreach to the Seeing Hand Association for years to come,” Haught added.

The Seeing Hand Association’s mission is to assist all ages of visually impaired people living in the Upper Ohio Valley to achieve a high quality of life, self sufficiency and independence. The North Wheeling facility provides employment opportunities for clients who make and repair products in its workshop.

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