It’s commonly known that gardening can be good for the soul, but for a group of veterans trying to leave homelessness forever, it can be a complete lifesaver.
Which is exactly why early last Wednesday, Coralei Kluver, an assistant manager at Home Depot was hard at work shoveling dirt to help build a greenhouse that will benefit a group of veterans living at Independence Hall, a 20-bed transitional housing center in Billings, Mont.
Home Depot provided a $10,000 grant for the greenhouse project, and the store’s employees brought the volunteer muscle. Many of them came to help in the morning before working a full shift at the store. “It’ll be a long day, but it’s worth it,” Kluver tells Zach Benoit of the Billings Gazette. “It’s good to be here and we’re glad to be helping.”
Kluver has a special motivation to help veterans: Several years ago, her cousin was killed while on active duty.
Since 2011, the veterans at Independence Hall have run a thriving garden, but the greenhouse will help extend the growing season in the chilly Rocky Mountain climate. Some of the produce grown is used as food for the vets at Independence Hall, while the remainder is sold at the farmer’s markets held in the center’s parking lot or donated to the community. One year, more than 800 pounds worth was dolled out.
Bill Holder, the director of veterans services for the local chapter of Volunteers of America (VOA), the nonprofit that runs Independence Hall, tells Benoit, “We’ve already got our community garden here, so hopefully we’ll be able to start earlier and grow more.” Holder says Independence Hall is “not a shelter. It’s a program where they transition to a self-sufficient lifestyle.”
Gardening “gives the opportunity to have something that’s therapeutic,” says Dave Shumway, the director of communications for the Northern Rockies division of the VOA. “They’re transitioning from being homeless to a more normal life and what’s more normal than working on a garden in your backyard?”