Wednesday November 25th, 2015 7:24AM

The Medical Center Foundation dedicates Nell's Prayer Garden

By Staff
GAINESVILLE - The Medical Center Foundation Monday dedicated Nell's Prayer Garden at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) to honor the life of long time hospital volunteer and leader Nell Whelchel Wiegand, who passed away last year. Nell's daughters, Mary Beth Begley and Ginny Crumley, along with their families, attended the tribute to their mother.

Nell's Prayer Garden was made possible through donations to The Medical Center Foundation from more than 140 donors who helped create a lasting legacy in honor of Wiegand. The 2,200 square-foot garden surrounds the exterior of the Dawn McKibbon Memorial Chapel outside NGMC's North Patient Tower. The garden is complete with a stone privacy wall, a water feature and plantings of hydrangeas and a tea rose brought from Nell's home garden.

"It was Nell's dream to make the garden outside of the chapel come to life," said Foundation Chairman Jim Moore. "From her life experiences, Nell knew first-hand what the garden would mean to so many. Nell's Prayer Garden is no ordinary garden and appropriately serves as a spiritual place of reverence and solitude for patients, their families and staff."

Wiegand provided 60 years of service as a Medical Center Auxilian and served in almost every volunteer position within the hospital.

"Nell's passion and vision for helping those around her gave her a unique ability to understand the needs of patients, family members and staff," said Northeast Georgia Health System CEO Carol Burrell. "She was a woman of great faith and hospitality, and, as I look around this beautiful prayer garden, I know Nell would wish for those visiting to relax, reflect and take refuge in this wonderful setting outside of the clinical environment. "

Wiegand's service to, and love of, NGMC began before it even opened its doors in 1951. She first helped prepare the community for the new modern facility, then she went on to serve as a volunteer, president of The Medical Center Auxiliary, member of the Hospital Authority, and was the founding chair of The Medical Center Foundation in 1986. She served in that capacity until 2008, when she became chair emeritus.

"Nell was a friend to all," said Nancy Colston, executive director of The Medical Center Foundation. "The garden allows Nell's legacy of genuinely befriending and caring for others to live on. We are grateful to those who were influenced by Nell so much that they chose to be a part of creating Nell's Prayer Garden."

According to Colston, a lead signature gift was committed by a partnership of The Medical Center Auxiliary, The Medical Center Foundation and NGMC. Fifteen major gifts were given by Joanne & W.A. Bagwell; Steve & Carol Burrell; Mrs. Ralph W. Cleveland and Mr. and Mrs. John R. Cleveland; John & Lydia Ferguson; The Fockele Garden Company; the late Lillian Fraser; Dallas & Bobbie Gay; Dr. Clifton & Donna Hastings; Phyllis & Dick Leet; Hart & Jeff Payne; Richard & Lona Pope; the Starlet R. Jones Foundation; Bob & Wanda Swoszowski; James A. Walters; and Philip & Mary Hart Wilheit, Sr. More than 120 additional donations were given by auxilians, physicians, employees, close friends and family.

"I've already witnessed people strolling through the garden or sitting beside the bubbling fountain," said Colston. "It's become a popular place to visit, and we couldn't be happier."

To learn more about signature gift naming opportunities or The Medical Center Foundation, call 770-219-8099 or visit
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