Chamber News


Chamber Business of the Week

Article and photo by Abby Hess, Quill Staff Writer

Greater West Plains Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Week is Health Haven Botanical Gardens.

Heading south on the U.S. 63 bypass in West Plains, as drivers approach the traffic light at Highway 17, two things are quickly apparent just off the left side of the road: First, there is a giant hole in the ground; and second, there’s an earthen formation behind it.

The hole is actually a pond in formation, the Reeves Conservation Mill Pond. And the earthen structure is the Veterans Memorial Garden and Heroes Memorial Amphitheater, also under construction. Both are part of a much larger project that broke ground in 2016, Health Haven Botanical Gardens (HHBG).

The board overseeing the gardens’ creation is actively seeking community participation in its latest project involving the amphitheater. The project, “Honoring Heroes,” offers the public an opportunity to recognize heroes in their lives with personalized concrete pavers in exchange for a contribution.

Jeri Dias, who co-founded HHBG with her husband Don, described her vision for the amphitheater just before the gardens’ groundbreaking, calling the venue perfect for small music shows and weddings.

Standard pavers range in price from $50 to $125 and include up to three lines of text. Messages are limited to 30 letters per row and may include the hero’s name, heroic act, and dates of service. If the hero is a veteran, the message can include rank and branch of service. Language must be family-friendly.

Paver forms are available on the gardens’ Facebook page, @healthhavenbg. Also, they can be requested by email at or picked up in person at the gardens, 902 County Road 8270 in West Plains.

Completed forms and payment may be submitted in person at the gardens or mailed to Health Haven Botanical Gardens, 905 W. Thornburg St., West Plains, MO 65775.

The amphitheater is just one of many planned attributes on the seven-acre, disability-accessible property. Dias said at the outset of the project that she envisioned it being a long-term creation; parts of the gardens could take 20 years to come to completion. Some, like the labyrinth that overlooks the future koi pond in the Japanese Zen garden area, are in more visible stages of development.

Others, such as the children’s playground featuring educational themes from nature, are still in the early stages and require a little more imagination to see.

The gardens are also planning to incorporate a butterfly garden, garden shop, exercise stations, cooking education and demonstration classes, a meditation area, a wedding and reunion rental space, a shade garden, prairie garden, rainwater garden, memory garden and culinary gardens featuring herbs, vegetables, a fruit orchard, and berries.

“Health Haven was inspired by a need for a horticultural environment that could improve local health and nutrition through education and demonstration and to help conserve our native plants for future generations and to provide a place for all members of our rural communities the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful space for creativity, recreation and relaxation.”, said board President Sarah Wittenauer.

In addition, the Dias’s and Wittenauer, HHBG leadership includes board Vice President – Ever Johnson, Historian – Rae Johnson, Treasurer – Teresa Skinner, and Board members Mike McMahon and Dorthea Burthoud.

They are supported with the efforts of countless volunteers, including several AmeriCorps teams that have served multiple organizations in the community such as the Boys & Girls Club and West Plains Community Garden.

Other volunteers have included Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts from across the seven-county region, including Eagle Scout Jarom Wilber and Eagle Scout candidate Levi Baker. Employees of Regal-Beloit and West Plains Bank and Trust have donated their time and efforts to the gardens, individuals Stan Cooper and Mike Reeves volunteered labor and Morgan Jones volunteered her grant-writing skills.

Wittenauer said there are many more donors and volunteers, big and small, and the gardens have chosen creative ways to recognize them. The rainwater garden, for example, is named for the Albert Lorenzi family, as an expression of gratitude for their contributions.

Donations to the gardens are tax-deductible as it is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Sponsorships are available for individual gardens, structures, and plants, and all financial donations go directly into the gardens to support maintaining and growing the vision.

Volunteers of all ages are also encouraged to give their time to the gardens. The gardens are open all day Mondays through Fridays, and at varying times on the weekends. To learn more call 293-8533, visit, email or follow @healthhavenbg on Facebook.