LNLC building student memorial

Home Depot volunteers (L-R) John Bosshart, Bryan Cornelius and Jonathan Newell spread gravel for the new LNLC memory garden Aug. 4. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When children return to classes at the Linda Nolen Learning Center on Aug. 11, they will have a new addition dedicated to the friends and classmates they have lost.

Volunteers from the U.S. 280 Home Depot store and Lawn Master got an early start Aug. 4 in constructing a memory garden at the school to honor the students the school has lost over the past several years.

The city of Pelham and Richard Pyron also donated labor and materials to the project, which will not cost the school anything.

When the garden is complete, it will feature a wooden pergola, many different types of flowers, wind chimes, a water fountain and more. The garden will be wheelchair-accessible via sidewalks curled into the shape of a heart.

“Many of the kids here have sensory problems, so we wanted to incorporate as many sensory items as we could,” said Linda Moran, a parent at LNLC who helped to organize the project. “This is really special. It’s something all the students can enjoy.”

Last year, two of the school’s students passed away, which will make the garden especially meaningful for LNLC’s students, parents and staff members, Moran said.

The design of the garden came about while several LNLC parents were chatting over breakfast at Pelham’s Dunkin Donuts. After the parents sketched a rough drawing of the garden on a napkin, they handed it over to Cheri Brennan, a landscape designer and an employee with the Shelby County School District’s Special Services department.

“Two of the five mothers (who regularly meet at Dunkin Donuts) lost their children last year, so this is real meaningful to us,” Moran said.

After Brennan provided a professional design for the garden, Moran began searching for materials to use in the project. When she saw a wooden pergola at the U.S. 280 Home Depot store, she told store officials about the project.

“One of the things we try to do, as a company, is give back to the community by doing volunteer projects,” said Mark McPherson, a Home Depot employee who was helping to construct the garden Aug. 4. “This is a really special place.

“At a school like this, most of their budget is taken up by the special equipment they have to buy,” McPherson added. “They don’t have a lot of extra money to do projects like this, so I think it’s important that we step in to pick up the slack.”