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Prayer garden honors longtime hospital volunteer
Nell's Prayer Garden was dedicated Monday at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, in honor of longtime hospital volunteer Nell Wiegand. - photo by J. Bryan Stiles

The legacy of longtime hospital volunteer Nell Whelchel Wiegand was honored Monday at the dedication of Nell’s Prayer Garden at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Wiegand, who passed away in 2011, devoted 60 years of volunteer service to the hospital. Serving as founding member and president of The Medical Center Auxiliary, one term as chairwoman of the Hospital Authority and as founding chairwoman of the Medical Center Foundation, Wiegand’s presence touched the lives of countless patients, volunteers and staff.

Jim Moore, chairman of the foundation, described Wiegand as a person of both charm and character with quite the funny bone, something everyone who encountered her quickly noticed.

“Nell was a woman of great faith and Southern hospitality,” Moore said. “Her sense of humor was her greatest attribute.”

Bringing the garden to life began a year and a half ago, and since that time, 140 donors plus almost 20 major donors helped fund the garden’s creation.

“This was near and dear to Nell’s heart. She understood the need for a place for people to come to find peace,” said Nancy Colston, executive director of the foundation who worked with Wiegand for 15 years. “We wanted to create a legacy, and so many people wanted to be a part of it.”

The prayer garden is situated beside two gardens of healing and peace at the hospital’s North Patient Tower. The Dawn McKibbon Memorial Chapel, which lies directly behind the prayer garden and was one of many labors of love Wiegand helped work on, is named after one of Wiegand’s close friends whom she met during her time volunteering.

Hydrangeas and tea roses from Wiegand’s personal garden were also planted there.

Those who developed relationships with Wiegand, including past hospital patient Beth Anderson, were in attendance to celebrate a life well lived,.

“Nell was so special; she was such a jewel. My time in the hospital would have been so different if Nell hadn’t showed me how much a stranger could care for the sick,” Anderson said. “But she was that once-in-a-lifetime friend for me, and her legacy is going to be well-honored here.”

As Jeff Thompson, chaplain at Northeast Georgia Health System, stated at the garden’s dedication, “Nell’s life was like a garden; a garden of love, nurturing, caring and beauty.”