A Healthy Respite

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A highlight of 2017 for SECU Family House was the planting and dedication of Zeny’s Garden. Its namesake, Zeny Datiles, served as a dietitian at UNC Hospitals for many years. Zeny—passionate about good nutrition—helped others live the healthiest lives possible. Breast cancer would claim her own life, but her legacy lives on through Zeny’s Garden.

After Zeny’s death, her husband Ulda began a fund that helped establish a lending library in UNC Lineberger’s Patient and Family Resource Center, as well as sponsored the annual March nutrition luncheon. In honor of the tenth anniversary of the Zeny’s Garden Fund and Ulda’s donations, Zeny’s Garden was installed at SECU Family House.

This community garden promotes the plant-based diet recommended for cancer patients, demonstrating the value of good nutrition to the larger community. More than half of Family House’s guests are receiving cancer treatments at UNC Hospitals.


Zeny’s Garden also provides a healthy respite—fresh herbs and vegetables—for patients and their families. SECU Family House guest are invited to use the produce, and many enjoy going out to the garden and picking produce themselves to use in cooking. The peacefulness of the garden gazebo can ease a patient’s mind. Anxiety and depression are alleviated.

“It gives the patients and their families a break,” says Janice McAdams, Executive Director of SECU Family House. “To come back and be able to spend time in a garden, which is like what many of them have at home, it just feels good. They sit in a rocking chair, they look at the garden, and they talk to people in the garden. It just feels comfortable for them to be able to decompress.” McAdams and Family House staff look forward to growing and harvesting herbs and vegetables for years to come.

If you happen to be an experienced gardener who can volunteer some time and know-how, please contact Claire Veazey, Director of Volunteer Services, at claire@secufamilyhouse.org. SECU Family House will put your garden-to-table knowledge to use, ensuring our guests fully benefit from the gifts of Zeny's Garden.


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