The Union Recorder

October 29, 2013

Veterans receive accessible garden

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Courtesy of community donations and Georgia Military College workers, residents at the Georgia War Veterans Home (GWVH) now have an accessible garden space.

Recently, the facility reinvigorated the garden club, but veterans didn't have a traditional space to work. The nearly 15-member club yearned for some fruit and vegetables.

GWVH Recreation Services Director Wanda Blackwell said the majority of the older vets grew up on the farm with gardening as second nature.

Their conditions make traditional gardening difficult.

“They have no way to get out and do the things they used to do. Some of them have had some physical decline," Blackwell said. "The raised beds help them out, where they can easily access it.”

Tac Officer Wilson Duran oversaw the GMC workers Saturday. 

The project includes 12 raised beds varying from two to four feet tall.

Retired Lt. Col. Jim Haskins and wife Jane Thompson Barnard, whose 94-year-old father resides at the GWVH, helped organize the idea.

Water hose bibs already existed on the open field.

“There were some guys trying to garden,” Haskins said. “There was no fence to keep the animals out, and as they became less able they couldn't tend to the plants anymore.”

Fencing and an appealing layout will make the veterans' garden a point of pride.

“Our feeling is to not just make it functional but make it attractive,” Haskins said.

The Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority approved the project and donated $1,000. Haskins said the board made it all possible.

T-Bones Nursery, Lowe's and Fowler-Flemister Concrete all gave either free or discounted materials such as potting soil, fencing materials and walk way gravel.

T & S Hardwoods donated 96 untreated White Oak boards for individual garden construction. The United Methodist Men gave a cash donation and helped organize workers.

Haskins also credited Windstream Communications Project Manager Randy Dalrymple for assisting the veterans' garden.

Blackwell said early plans feature fruit trees and possibly turnips. Regardless of the yield, success means the war heroes feel better each day.

“A lot of the veterans are depressed, and their families don't see them as much as they should and this just gives them an outlet to make them feel productive and a part of the community again,” Blackwell said.

Barnard said the garden makes residents feel like they make a difference and aren't just stuck away.

Duran said the cadets do something different everyday to keep the community involved. Coming back to visit the expert veteran gardeners can make all the impact as well.

“Maybe some of them would choose to adopt one of the veterans here, so they could come out and help with their garden stuff. Many of the residents are in wheelchairs and can't wheel themselves, but if somebody goes up and brings them down, it's like they aren't just stuck away and forgotten,” Barnard said. “Many of them can't communicate effectively. They really respond to a smile and pat on the shoulder and just being able to get outside.”

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