Shiprock — The sounds of shovels and picks hitting the ground filled the air as volunteers on Monday started building a healing garden at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock.
Some volunteers prepped the 30-by-30 foot area, located next to the hospital's main entrance, by removing weeds and debris, while others constructed the pergola that will provide shade to patients and visitors.
As the volunteers worked, some patients walked by with puzzled expressions on their faces.
The volunteers were from Home Depot in Farmington and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque.
Once completed, the Healing Begins Medicine Garden will house native plants and roses and a walkway and stones will surround the fountain.
Home Depot donated the materials, valued at $4,000, and employees donated their time to complete the work as part of the store's Team Depot program, which builds projects to benefit communities.
This is the first project Team Depot has done at the hospital, store manager Katie McCranie said.
"It's all about bringing the product and bringing helpful hands and doing something positive for our community," McCranie said.
On Monday, volunteer Eliza Lee was busy using a tamper to flatten the dirt so pavestone could be laid to build a 5-foot wide walkway. The dirt has to be leveled so wheelchairs can be easily maneuvered around the garden, volunteers explained.
Lee said whenever she visited the hospital she noticed the potential for the spot to house something beneficial for patients and community members.
"The patients can enjoy the fresh air and see the sky and everything around them," she said.
It will also be a source of pride for Lee.
"Every time I walk by here, I'm going to be like, 'I did that,'" she said.
The idea for the garden came from Healing Begins, a local grief support group for families who have lost loved ones to violent crimes or for survivors of violence, said group member Antonita Nunes.
It also honors individuals who have lost their lives to violence, she added.
"This is a way to honor that life does go on and life is precious and life is important," Nunes said. "Let's beautify our hospital for our patients, the people, the community to be conducive to healing."
The group will work with Arnold Clifford, a local field botanist, to select native and traditional plants to grow in the garden.
In addition to providing a comfort zone, the group would like community members and students to learn about the medical benefits each plant provides.
"They can take a field trip here and learn about the different native plants," Nunes said.
Because the garden is located on federal government property, the project received approval from the Navajo Area Indian Health Service in Window Rock, Ariz.
Volunteer Sherry Lynn worked on Monday near a set of windows that will have flowers planted underneath.
"It'll be quite interesting," Lynn said about the finished project.
The garden will be dedicated at 10 a.m. on April 8, as part of events and activities coinciding with National Crime Victims' Rights Week.
National Crime Victims' Rights Week is an annual event that promotes victims' rights and honors victims of crime and those who advocate on their behalf.