AARP Awards Grant to Upgrade Madison Sensory Garden

Posted on 02/15/24

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A proposal submitted by the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired to create signage for three garden spaces and four flowerpots in the Council’s sensory garden at 754 Williamson St., Madison, has been selected to receive this month’s AARP Wisconsin “Small Dollar, Big Impact” grant.

We at AARP WI are awarding $1,000 grants each month throughout 2024 to projects across the state that are designed to make communities better places for everyone to live, work and play as they age.

Lori Werbeckes, Fund Development Director for the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, said the grant will help them create two large signs at the garden’s two entrances off Williamson Street and Livingston Street that will welcome people and direct them via a QR code to a website that tells them why the gardens were created, what makes them “sensory,” and explains the sensory appeal of each plant.

All signs will be large print and embossed with braille. Information accessed using the QR code will also be available to visitors in audio format.

The Council worked with master gardeners to turn overgrown flower beds into three sensory gardens and four flowerpots outside its offices. “Our goals were to beautify the spaces for our visitors, staff, and neighborhood, and to make them appealing and interesting to council clients who are living with vision loss,” Werbeckes said. “The plants in our sensory gardens were chosen for their aromas, textures and sometimes bright blooms.”

The Council wants to invite people into the gardens by placing a large print and braille sign in both locations, welcoming them to touch, smell and see. Additional funds will allow them to label the plants, describing their sensory appeal.

The grant will help the council create sturdy and readable signage for people who are blind or visually impaired, do justice to the work done by the volunteer gardeners, and withstand Wisconsin weather.

The mission of the Council is to promote the dignity and empowerment of people who are blind and visually impaired through direct vision services, policy advocacy and public education. Vision services include vision rehabilitation therapy, low vision evaluation, online support groups and access to technology training. Many of these services are provided free of charge. The Council also awards scholarships to postsecondary students who are blind or visually impaired.

Werbeckes said the council is “grateful to AARP Wisconsin for seeing the value of inclusive signage in our new gardens and for awarding us the funds to make them possible. The “Small Dollar, Big Impact” program is a gem for small organizations in Wisconsin.”

AARP Wisconsin’s launched its “Small Dollar, Big Impact” grant program in 2020 and is now in its fifth year of helping proposed projects move forward in rural and urban parts of the state. For more information, visit

This story is provided by AARP Wisconsin. Visit the AARP Wisconsin page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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