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Garden honors familys service to area hospital
The Pope Family Garden is dedicated Monday at the South Patient Tower at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. The outdoor reprieve is available for expectant parents, siblings and family awaiting the arrival of a newborn child as well as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at the Infusion Center.

The Medical Center Foundation of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center on Monday dedicated a new outdoor garden that will offer peace and tranquility to patients, expectant parents and visitors.

The Pope Family Garden that was dedicated in memory of Ocie and Ralph Pope and honors the Pope family’s volunteer service at the hospital was revealed to family, friends and hospital staff.

The garden is at the South Patient Tower, between the Women and Children’s Pavilion and the Infusion Center.

“The Pope family goes way back at the hospital,” said Lona Pope, daughter-in-law of the late Ocie and Ralph Pope. They volunteered time and service to the hospital for nearly 60 years, Lona said.

Ocie was the founder of the Hall School of Nursing, which later became Brenau University Nursing School. She was also instrumental in the founding of The Medical Center Auxiliary.

Their son, Richard Pope, Lona’s husband, served as treasurer of the auxiliary.

“Fifty-six years later, here we are still, and we hope that it will continue with our kids and grandchildren, to continue that legacy,” Pope said, “of being able to provide for the patients, staff and families of our hospital.

“I think they (Ocie and Ralph) would be very proud of their family. I hope they would be very proud of their family. They started a legacy that is our honor to continue.”

Lona and Richard both currently serve on the foundation board, but Lona said she hopes to become a full-time volunteer one day at the hospital and follow in the footsteps of her in-laws.

“Healing is such an important aspect of health care and getting better,” said Carol Burrell, president and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System. “Not only for the patients, but for the family members and caregivers.

“So to be able to have this crowning jewel (the garden) outside of an area that really needed it and to be able to meet the needs of families who are having new babies, and also our cancer patients, who are at the Infusion Center. ... It kind of gives you cold chills to think that you have something very special there that can meet (the need) of two different types of people.

“We’re very thankful for them (Lona and Richard), and see them as leaders and setting the example for our community.”

Jim Moore, chairman of The Medical Center Foundation and friend of the Pope family, said it was “tremendous” to have people, like Ocie and Ralph, Lona and Richard, and the Pope family, volunteer their time and service to the hospital.

“It’s a great addition to the hospital campus,” Moore said, “and it’s a wonderful gift by the Pope family to continue the legacy of giving to this hospital that was started by Richard’s parents 60 years ago.

“What they found is that gardens have a tremendously healing effect. It’s a place you can come and feel the calm when you are in a tense situation, like the birth of a child, a grandchild, or receiving cancer treatment. It can give you some solitude, and make you feel a lot more at ease during those tense situations.”

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