TOWN OF SALINA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)
UPDATE as of Monday, July 8, 2019: The NewsChannel 9 Your Stories team received new information Monday morning regarding Hope for Bereaved Inc.’s new Butterfly Garden of HOPE policy. A story about the policy aired on Friday, July 5. Signs were recently posted in the garden asking people to remove all ornaments from memory benches by July 8. Hope for Bereaved, the non-profit that oversees the garden, tells NewsChannel 9 it is putting its new policy “on hold” for now. They understand people who own memory benches in the garden have questions. The organization says the policy change is to address safety. They have received complaints from people who have sat on the benches during weddings held at the garden. Going forward, Executive Director Therese Schoeneck says they will work with families as they implement the new policy. Schoeneck says they, “want the garden to remain a peaceful place for everyone.” People who already own memory benches in the garden do have the option to have them removed and take them home.
ORIGINAL STORY July 5, 2019:
A few weeks ago, a family that regularly visits a memory bench in the Butterfly Garden of HOPE, noticed a few signs alerting people to a new policy surrounding ornaments on memory benches.
The signs reads:
“Consistent with the policies of Onondaga County Parks Dept., ornaments of any kind on or attached to or surrounding the benches or lining the brick pathways in the Butterfly Garden of HOPE are strictly prohibited.”
A spokesperson for the Onondaga County Executive’s Office tells NewsChannel 9 that they did not place the signs in the garden and will remove them as soon as possible. The Onondaga County Executive’s Office also says the sign does not reflect their parks department’s policy.
NewsChannel 9 received the following statement from the Onondaga County Executive’s Office:
“The only thing we discourage is planting something next to benches because we will sometimes rotate them so they evenly weather and such, but they can leave balloons. They will be removed after they’re deflated.”
It appears the signs were posted by Hope for Bereaved Inc.
The organization runs the garden on county park property.
A notice with similar wording to the posted garden signs is in the Hope for Bereaved Inc.’s July 2019 newsletter. It reads, “To be consistent with park rules lawn/memorial ornaments will no longer be allowed to be used in the garden. Current ornaments must be removed by July 8th.”
Frieda Weeks, a mom who bought a bench and a brick paver in memory of her daughter, Heather, about five years ago says the new policy is troubling.
She says someone from Hope for Bereaved Inc. also called her to tell her about the new policy.
“It caught me off guard,” Weeks said. “When you think about it — it kind of festers. It stirs up old wounds and old grief and you wonder why. Why would someone complain about balloons or a wreath out on a bench that memorializes someone?”
Weeks says she and her family members enjoy visiting the garden and sharing stories about Heather. She says the small items she leaves on Heather’s bench help share small glimpses of daughter’s memory.
Weeks says she is grateful for the garden and what it stands for, which is why she is confused and hurt by the “sudden and new policy.”
“Hope for Bereaved is important in the community,” Weeks shared. “What they do for the community and for the butterfly garden is immeasurable. What the parks department does here is immeasurable for people who are grieving and we hope that this policy will not be in effect and that we can get to the bottom of what’s really happening here so that other loved ones can come and remember their people that they lost.”
The NewsChannel 9 Your Stories team has reached out to Hope for Bereaved by email and phone, and are awaiting a response.
If you have a question for the Your Stories team, email YourStories@LocalSYR.com.