While hospitals are places of healing, they are also cauldrons of fear, worry and tension. Now, visitors, patients and staff at the Gnaden Huetten campus of Blue Mountain Health System have an island of peace and serenity where they can rest and reflect.

The Memorial & Recognition Garden was dedicated Tuesday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The garden, in front of the hospital, includes benches and a gazebo, and the names of sponsors are included in pavers.

The garden is a "place of peace and refuge, a place of remembrance and rest," said the Rev. Robert VonFrisch, who offered prayers at the ceremony. VonFrisch, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Lehighton, is a member of the hospital's board of directors.

"This garden was the vision of a group of employees and Dr. Clem McGinley, (vice-president of Medical Affairs), who saw a need for a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital," said BMHS CEO Andrew Harris. "We also wanted to provide a fitting place to honor and remember our doctors, nurses, employees, volunteers and benefactors as well as patients and their families."

The pavers, benches and gazebo were purchased through donations from staff, doctors, and hospital supporters. About 20 of the pavers are engraved with the names of donors who contributed $250 each. Pavers were purchased by Mr. and Mrs. George Sefranek; Carbon Medical Associates; Mauch Chunk Trust Co.; Dr. Deborah A. Smith; Mrs. Anita M. Hausman; the staff of the Acute Care Rehabilitation Unit; Mr. and Mrs. Harley Shupp; the staff of the Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital Medical Records Department; Mrs. Lisa Pignataro; Mr. and Mrs. Kyle Hough; Mr. and Mrs. Dale Poe; Mrs. Grace Solt; Andrew P. Ovsak Funeral Home, Inc.; Mrs. Stefania Potoczak; Mrs. Doreen LaRizzio; and the BMHS Senior Management Team.

The seven benches were sponsored at $500 each by Lehighton and Palmerton Medical Associates; Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Lynch; Dr. and Mrs. Clement McGinley; Cardiology Associates and Diagnostic Center; Laboratory and other hospital staff; chiropractors Lou Sportelli and John DeMatte III; and Mr. and Mrs. John Hanosek.

Other donors included Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Guardiani; Mrs. Stacy Sheckler, RN; and Ms. Susan J. Silfies, RN.

Harris thanked the Gnaden Huetten Hospital Auxiliary, which sponsored the gazebo, and the BMHS medical staff for their generosity in sponsoring the plantings.

Plans include additional flower beds and a second path into the garden, he said. That will cost an additional $6,500.

Plans are also under way for a similar project at the Palmerton Hospital, Harris said. That project is expected to be unveiled later this year or early next year.

Dr. McGinley was unable to attend the ceremony.