UnityPoint health care workers have a little something extra to keep up spirits in between COVID-19 shifts, thanks to the donation of a horticulture program’s end-of-year project. 

At Des Moines Area Community College, students in the horticulture program’s Greenhouse Production II course were preparing rows and rows of flowers and plants on the DMACC Ankeny Campus at the start of this year. Students like Olivia Charlton, now a 2020 graduate of the program, spent months caring for the greenhouse in preparation for the public plant sale at the end of the semester. 

Every year, around 1,500 containers of plants raise more than $10,000 for the program, as well as the DMACC Horticulture Club for students. Once social distancing was put into effect, the public sale was canceled, and the full greenhouse had nowhere to go.

“We thought, worst-case scenario, [we’d be gone] a couple of weeks. As things progressed, we learned that we weren’t coming back at all, which was a bummer,” said Charlton, who graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2017. 
So DMACC’s horticulture program turned to longtime campus partner UnityPoint Health-Des Moines with an idea to put plants to good use: Nearly all of the plants were donated to individual health care workers and the UnityPoint grounds team for landscaping around clinics, hospices and the Ronald McDonald House. The seven horticulture students who spent the year caring for the greenhouse also got to stop by and claim a few plants of their own. 
Charlton chose to study horticulture at DMACC after a yearlong internship working on an Indiana organic farm, and is seeking her next job or internship in the field. 

“It sounds kind of silly, but after seeing the plants every day, you kind of bond to them. It’s nice that they got to go to people who would appreciate them,” Charlton said. “I think plants are a kind of constant. They just keep trucking and growing, and you know they’re beautiful no matter how bad your day was. They’re something you can depend on, something that is a solid basis that you can always take joy in and surround yourself with.”