Church volunteers give Lynnwood senior’s yard, home a makeover

An 84-year-old Lynnwood woman is hoping to get back to the gardening she loves, after a group of church volunteers pitched in to clean up her yard.

Sheryl Martens’ front and back yards were overrun with vegetation, making the house almost impossible to see from the road.

Homage Senior Services in Lynnwood had previously worked inside Martens’ house and was aware of her situation. So, when members of Unity in Lynnwood’s Humanitarian Outreach Ministry program contacted Homage — looking to sponsor a big project that could have a positive impact — they received Martens’ name.

“I don’t know how they chose me, but I feel blessed,” she said.

The work on Martens’ house began July 27, when half a dozen volunteers did preliminary work like pressure washing and cleaning out the gutters. The following Saturday, 70 volunteers from Unity worked in two shifts — uprooting trees, cutting branches and overgrown grass, pulling weeds and hauling mulch to transform Martens’ yard after years of neglect. 

Unity in Lynnwood’s Humanitarian Outreach Chair Walayn Sharples said she has been hoping for a while to get the church’s outreach program more involved in the community. When a planned project with Habitat for Humanity fell through, Sharples said she was approached by fellow Unity member Daniel Kalfas about doing a home makeover project. Sharples said the project paired well with her plans for the program.

“When I took over the chairmanship of the committee, I had a vision of focusing on something bringing our whole community together,” she said. “I want it to be more face-to-face, people-to-people and get more people involved.”

Martens and her husband, Harold Ray Martens, lived in their Lynnwood home for 47 years, after moving from Iowa where they met. Since she had been raised in the Midwest, Martens said it took four years for her husband to convince her to move back to where he grew up. 

“He kept telling me how wonderful it is here,” she said. “I thought it was like going to the end of the world and falling off into the ocean.”

Over the years, Martens developed a love of gardening and has collected several different types of trees, plants and flowers — azaleas, rhododendrons, Asian irises and blueberry and mint bushes.

“I love to garden,” she said. “When I’d come home tired, I’d weed and get invigorated.”

However, when her husband – a Korean War veteran — became sick and required constant care, Martens became too busy to garden. Instead, up until her husband’s death in December, she spent every day for five years traveling to whichever hospital or facility he was in at the time to help care for him. 

(See related story on a Memorial Day observance in Edmonds for Harold Ray and other Korean War veterans at this link.)

Now, with fresh landscaping and two new box gardens in her backyard, Martens said she may return to gardening. The once-overgrown yard is covered in fresh mulch and the plants Martens selected to be saved from the purge of overgrowth. The remake also includes a decorative path through her front yard, which volunteers created from several rocks that Martens was hesitant to throw away.

To top it off, the Unity volunteers gifted Martens with a hanging potted plant, which she hung near her front door. She also received a flower pot decorated by children from the church.

“It’s wonderful,” Martens said after seeing her new yard.

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

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