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Extended care facility garden recognized by Audubon group

Extended care facility garden recognized by Audubon group 
Garden provides residents with fulfilling hobby

Lawrenceville, Ga. – Gwinnett Extended Care Center (GECC) at Gwinnett Medical Center-Lawrenceville has received certification from the Atlanta Audubon Society as a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary. GECC is one of only two retirement communities/nursing homes in metropolitan Atlanta to achieve this recognition.

“It’s been a multi-year process,” said Tamey Stith, GECC administrator. “The standards for this designation are quite high, and required not only contributions of plants and funds, but also hundreds of hours of physical labor from Gwinnett Medical Center associates, GECC residents and community members.” 

Although both the grounds and courtyard at GECC have received the Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary certification, the courtyard is the focal point. The courtyard is fully handicapped accessible, and is enclosed so that residents in wheelchairs or with memory issues can utilize it safely. 

“This whole project began to take shape,” said Chris Piela, who worked on the garden, “when I learned that while the residents enjoyed bird watching, putting out birdseed does not comply with health department standards, so we were limited in the choices of traditional bird foods. Instead, we needed do develop a garden with a variety of plants and features to provide cover and food for the birds at various times of the year.”

“Master Gardener Hilary Wilson became the leader,” added Piela, “designing a bird-friendly garden, developing a step-by-step plan to get there, working with vendors, enlisting volunteers and coordinating workdays.” The garden became a Great Days of Service project for each of the past two years, and construction of the required water feature became Gavin Figueroa’s Eagle Scout project (Troop 506). In addition, Piela worked with the Atlanta Audubon Society to ensure all the qualifications were met.  Keeping the garden up to these standards will be an ongoing process. 

“Even our residents help out as they can,” added Stith. “One resident, for instance, helps out with clean up on service days and she takes time on a regular basis to make sure the plantings have adequate water. Birding has become the topic of conversation at GECC and the residents spend hours talking about which birds they’ve spotted and which ones built a nest and spend time sharing stories about the songs the birds sing.”

GECC will host an open house on November 3, 2014, 3-4 p.m. to celebrate achieving this milestone. The community is invited. The community is also invited to learn more about opportunities to volunteer at GECC by calling Rita Davis, activity director, at 678-312-3098.

The Atlanta Audubon Society’s Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Certification program encourages property owners to establish their yards as beneficial habitats for wildlife. Shelter for birds or other wildlife, feeders and plantings that offer seeds, flowers and berries, a water source, and nesting sites are among the requirements for certification.

Gwinnett Extended Care Center, located at 650 Professional Drive, Lawrenceville, Georgia, has nine private and 40 semi-private rooms, and offers sub-acute, short-stay services and intermediate, extended care. Each resident is cared for by an interdisciplinary team of physicians, physical therapists, nurses and other health professionals for a full spectrum of care.

About Gwinnett Medical Center
Gwinnett Medical Center is a nationally-recognized, not-for-profit healthcare network with acute-care hospitals in Lawrenceville and Duluth. Offering cardiovascular, orthopedic and neuroscience specialty care as well as a full continuum of wellness services, GMC’s 4,800 associates and 800 affiliated physicians serve more than 400,000 patients annually. To learn more about how GMC is transforming healthcare, visit or follow us at, or