I walk the Green Bench Stroll twice a day for exercise; morning and night,” says Dick Holmes, former South Pasadena Mayor and resident at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay. Holmes has dedicated more than 25 years advocating for St. Petersburg green benches, starting with an installation of benches at The Sunshine Center in St. Petersburg in 1991.
“I’m going to petition the Lord for an emerald bench on the golden streets,” said Holmes, who was born in 1932. “I want an emerald green bench in heaven.”
Currently, The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay boasts 15 and a half benches: including one and a half in Holmes’ apartment at the Fountains and nine on the outdoor pathway that Holmes walks daily. Holmes sold his own car to pay for the Florida-made benches.
Constructed out of recycled high-density polyethylene, the benches are predicted to retain their green hue and good condition. “A hurricane came through and took out some trees last year. The benches are still there,” he said, smiling proudly.
Holmes’ love originally stemmed from the history and hospitality of the green bench. Now it has evolved into something greater: a quest for awareness and a cure for Alzheimer’s.
According The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay website, Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases and currently affects millions, including over 200,000 people under the age of 65.
Holmes’ wife Edie suffered from the disease before her death. A bench along the pathway at the Fountains is dedicated to her.
“That’s the Ms. Edie bench,” said Holmes, pointing. “When I come out here and I get to this point on the sidewalk, I always say, ‘Meet you on a green bench, Ms. Edie.’”
Holmes says dedicating that particular bench to his late wife was one of the first connections between his work with Alzheimer’s and his love for green benches.
In October 2017, Holmes held the 1st Annual Green Bench Stroll, an on-campus walk for those who can’t make it to the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. At the Stroll, Holmes collected donations to add to the overall sum raised by The Fountain’s team.
Each year a team of staff, residents and family members from The Fountains participate in Walk to End Alzheimer’s, a nationwide event held to bring awareness to the disease and raise money for research.
Last year, the team named themselves “Boca Goes Green for a Cure” to honor Holmes, his benches and his dedication to Alzheimer awareness. Combined with other on-campus events, like the Green Bench Charity Ball, Boca Goes Green team members raised over $2,000 for Alzheimer’s research.
This year will mark the 2nd Annual Green Bench Stroll and the public is invited to participate.
“They can come and sign up and drop a $5 suggested donation towards our team’s efforts to raise money to end Alzheimer’s,” said Melissa Krysh, Community Life Director at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay.
The Green Bench Stroll will take place on October 3 at 4 p.m. Donations and signups can be done at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay, 1255 Pasadena Ave. S.
“Not only does it tie our community to something so historic in St. Pete, but it’s so personalized because of Mr. Homes’ involvement,” said Krysh.