Justin's Garden is next project for beach

Since 2010, Justin’s Beach House has provided respite for families in need, and organizers are now working to create a back yard that matches that spirit.

The Justin W. Jennings Foundation plans to transform the entire yard of the home into a garden that would reflect the beauty and tranquility that the Bethany Beach respite house provides. Named for a local young man who passed away from cancer in 2000, Justin’s Beach House invites families dealing with cancer to vacation at no cost and escape the hospitals and doctor visits for a short time.

“We want to continue on with the welcoming feeling of the home,” said Kathy Green, executive director of the foundation and Justin’s Beach House. “It’s warm. It’s bright. It’s upbeat. We wanted to make sure that the whole property has that feel.”

The house sits on the property’s north side, accented with a gravel driveway and some landscaping. Right now, the yard is all about functionality, but the foundation envisions walkways, benches and a reading garden. New trees would include crape myrtle, red cedars, cryptomeria, bayberry and more. The proposed changes would fill approximately half of the entire 107-by-139-foot lot.

“We have known all along that, when we started this project, we wanted to continue that,” said Green. “We wanted nice place to sit outside, just to make it a whole campus, to finish the project.”

Helping the simple landscape blossom into a paradise will require considerable time and financial support. And the foundation is finding help from everyone from local groups to even distant fans of the house.

During the busy summer season, Jake Maggid, 13, vacationed at Bethany Beach, where he learned about Justin’s Beach House. A longtime visitor, Jake was first intrigued by the iconic oversized Adirondack chair, which serves as a sign. He began researching Justin’s Beach House.

“When I learned about Justin’s life, his strong determination to fight cancer and his love for Bethany Beach, I wanted to be a part of helping fulfill Justin’s dream to help others,” Maggid wrote to the foundation.

In April of 2013, Maggid was preparing for his bar mitzvah — the Jewish tradition through which a boy becomes a man, and which involves acts of kindness.

“Becoming an adult means I need to take responsibility for myself, my family and my community,” Maggid wrote. “I would like to contribute in some way to providing that special time for families that are coping with cancer to escape to the peaceful place where everything is better. My family always says, when we cross the Bay Bridge things are better!”

Maggid offered to help in any way he could, so during his summer vacation, he slipped up to the beach house to help garden, pull weeds and spruce up the yard. Because the foundation doesn’t want to intrude on their guests, they squeeze all of the house maintenance into Sunday afternoons, between guests.

Then, Maggid made a monetary donation, which started Justin’s Garden. And, in honor of his bar mitzvah, his grandmother also planned a donation to the garden.

But with the holidays looming, the time to act on this new phase of Jennings’ dream is now. Justin’s Beach House is booked until New Year’s, and volunteers will only have a few months to work before guests arrive again in spring. So the Jennings Foundation is fundraising for Justin’s Garden in addition to managing the beach house. They have already designed the garden, which will be built in stages.

“It’s time to move on, to really make this go. Before April 1, Phase 1 must be completed,” Green explained. “We’re hoping it doesn’t take three years. It all depends on how much money we raise.”

With plans to begin the driveway and major plantings this winter, the community can watch the garden grow over the next few years.

“It’s really a labor of love on a lot of people’s parts,” said Green, calling the house an oasis. “We want it to be a warm and welcoming outdoor space. It’s a good place that you wish you didn’t have to have, but it’s a nice place for those who need it.”

Many local people and businesses have contributed time, materials and funding to Justin’s Beach House, and all of these contributions will be welcome again for Justin’s Garden.

“Without the volunteers, that house would not run. It’s such a community effort,” said Green. “No donation is too big or too small.”

The 2013 visitor application period begins on Jan. 1, 2013. For more information or to make a donation, call the Justin W. Jennings Foundation at (302) 261-2510, email info@justinjennings.org or visit the Web site at www.justinsbeachhouse.org.