Retirement wasn’t easy for Vicki. “It didn’t take,” Vicki said, laughing. "I was so bored."

After 37 years as a nurse, Vicki was ready to move on and do something new. She got an idea when she saw a vacant lot at the end of town.

The lot was littered with trash and overgrown weeds. The brick walls were crumbling and covered with graffiti. It was a total eye sore, but Vicki saw something more. She thought it was the perfect spot for a community garden.

She knew there was a need to have fresh, healthy food in the neighborhood. And the garden would be a great way to beautify the community and bring people together.

"I know my way around a garden," Vicki said. "I grew up helping my grandma in her garden on the farm."

Vicki shared her idea with her husband, Doug, and they mapped out a plan. Then they pitched Vicki’s idea to the property owner. He fell in love with Vicki’s plan and helped her get the necessary approvals and permits.

Then Vicki got to work.

She recruited volunteers to help clean up the lot, construct the garden plots, cultivate the soil and plant seeds. They fixed up the walls, added a little paint and hung up some lights.

Within a few months, the garden was up and running.

For the first year, the garden was thriving but was not yet financially successful. Vicki and Doug had to invest a lot of their time and money.

But then Doug became ill and passed away unexpectedly. Faced with Doug’s medical and funeral bills, Vicki didn’t know how she could keep the community garden up and running.

On top of her grief, Vicki felt stressed and unprepared. The garden relied on donations, but those didn’t always make ends meet.

Fortunately, Doug had a life insurance policy, and he had listed Vicki as the beneficiary. Although Doug was retired, he was able to keep his life insurance coverage by paying for it himself after he retired.

"I didn’t even know he had this policy," Vicki said. "I came across the paperwork by accident a few weeks after he passed away."

Vicki received an advance payment on a portion of the life insurance benefit through DearbornCaresSM without having to submit any paperwork. By receiving some of the money upfront, she was able to pay for Doug's funeral expenses and stay afloat.

Since then, Vicki has expanded the community garden. She now offers services that generate funds to support the garden and its operations. For a small fee, families can rent plots and plant their own mini gardens. On weekends, Vicki teaches outdoor classes, hosts community events and participates in the local farmer’s market. A couple years after Vicki started the garden, she was recognized by the town as an Outstanding Citizen for her community service.

"Doug’s financial planning made all the difference," Vicki said. "It allowed me to keep doing what I love."