With extreme determination and a palpable dedication, Dr. Rhonda Coleman is ready to turn The Healing Garden (THG) into the community hub she always envisioned it could be. Although The Healing Garden is relatively new to the public, the concept has been under construction since Coleman was undergoing her dissertation, earning her doctorate in acupuncture and Eastern medicine. THG’s new facility at 2900 South Peoria St. in Aurora has the necessary space to reach its maximum effectiveness.

Since inception, Coleman was inspired to create a space which allows people of color to learn how to become the most holistically healthy version of themselves. She envisioned much of this growth developing as a community saying, “I want people to learn from each other through community teaching and community sharing from the knowledge we collectively have while learning together. I want to make The Healing Garden exactly what my vision was. My goal from the beginning was a collective of African American holistic health practitioners offering services that could help heal our community.”

Her timing could not be better as African American communities, and other communities of color, continue to suffer from catastrophic consequences of many preventable diseases. Coleman is adamant about the damage preventable diseases have caused saying, “People of color have the highest numbers in almost all these categories, be it kidney disease, heart disease, obesity, etc. We are also the least likely group of people to use preventive, holistic health services and this disconnect creates an obvious correlation.”

By setting up a space that is dedicated to the needs of communities of color and with the presence of practitioners of color, Coleman believes that more members of marginalized communities will feel comfortable receiving this kind of care. She firmly believes people want the help, however, as Coleman said, “Part of the issue is trust. People feel uncomfortable going to doctors that don’t look like them. They are always more likely to take services from people that are like them,” furthering her point saying, “Research clearly supports not only do people of color feel more comfortable receiving health services from other people of color but non-people of color feel comfortable with people of color practitioners as well.”

The more people Coleman can bring into THG the more people she will be able to provide healing services to help alleviate and reverse symptoms of preventable diseases plaguing community of colors. Coleman believes she will be able to prevent these conditions from proliferating in the communities if people seek out THG’s services early enough. Providing people with an alternative can also help people stay away from big pharmaceutical company products which often come with a host of negative consequences. “I can give you acupuncture and yoga instead of later giving you diabetes and blood pressure medication,” Coleman said.

The new space, which encompasses more than 3,000 square feet and is within walking distance of the Nine Mile light rail station, gives Coleman the opportunity to provide the services she has longed to be available. “We’ll benefit greatly from our new space which is a much larger facility with easy access and great visibility,” she said. The new building is equipped with community classrooms, clinical areas, and spaces for classes like yoga and Zumba. After receiving a 501(c) 3 status, the opportunity to occupy a larger space was a no-brainer for Coleman as she looked to expand her services. She looks forward to hosting a variety of beneficial community classes such as the diabetes prevention program by theCenterof Disease Control (CDC), a facilitated lifestyle training program. “The idea is to have a group discussion with people being able to learn from their peers while accompanied by a person who can give clear food guidelines,” Coleman said.

She hopes her space will serve as a place where people can learn comfortably without the gravity usually surrounding conversations about health and lifestyle choices. She will host events like a monthly “Popcorn and Pajamas Night” where people can watch a film then discuss what they watched. Coleman, however, looks at health as a completely holistic function of choices and would also like the discussion topics to include parenting, keeping neighborhoods safe and clean, battling drug addiction and depression.

Attaining a healthy body is often more complex than just doing exercises. Coleman emphasized this point saying, “We need to do a lot of talking about how our emotions and social environment deeply affect our health,” Coleman noting that often times her patients only recognize the symptoms of their issue but not the root cause. “A lot of times when I’m talking to people about what they came in for and about the start of their symptoms, it often times can be traced back to a significant event in their life, but they don’t always see the connection.”

Coleman knows the mission of THG is not one she can complete alone. And, she loves partnerships like the one she shares with Elements of Discovery; two sisters who are psychotherapists who will be facilitating group discussions about mental health. THG is also in need of more holistic health practitioners of color whom Coleman says have been particularly hard to come by. THG is alsoreceptiveof sponsors and donors who can help make programs and classes accessible and available to people who are the least likely to afford them. “Finance is often a deterrent for people in seeking this kind of care,” she said. CNN recently reported similar findings and according to the report, “In all age groups, Blacks were more likely than whites to not being able to visit a doctor in the past year due to cost.

THG is also in need of a qualified grant writer as they often see available funding they qualify for but lack a specialist to apply for those grants. Between grants, sponsors and donors, Coleman would like to continue to offer THG’s services for free and/or on a donation basis only.
THG will host a relaunch party on Jan. 20 for the public to tour the facility, sample the classes and meet its board of directors. For information on the event, call Dr. Rhonda Coleman at 720-900-4325 or email director@thehealinggardencenter.org

Editor’s note: For information on The Healing Garden visit www.thehealinggardencenter.org or visit their Facebook page.