At Rise & Go, a portion of our mission is to help create therapeutic gardens for veterans that could benefit from nutritious food, find purpose and create a sense of meaning in their lives, feel empowered in a peaceful space for their own personal healing, and to make positive connections with others.
Several partners and volunteers joined us in our mission and recently came together with Rise & Go to construct therapeutic raised garden beds for a local veteran. We would like to share our experience from that day.
When discussing community gardens, many people focus on one of the primary benefits; A garden provides the fruits and vegetables that can nourish a community. But there can be many benefits to therapeutic gardening that can meet the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of an individual, and a recent project in our community reinforced that point for our Rise & Go family.
Meeting Mike Z.
It was cold and raining when we arrived at Mike’s home, and we didn’t know what to expect when meeting Mike. Could numerous volunteers arriving at his home be immense for him? These expectations were completely wrong! Mike was sweet, kind, and vibrant. He showed us his property and helped pick a location to build the raised vegetable garden. Throughout the day, his personality and his enthusiasm would prove invaluable to the group and made us want to do better and be better.
Several of our partners arrived in short order; With the arrival of Derek K. and his team (Midwest Roofing, LLC), Kendall S. (Farm to School Specialist with Springfield Public Schools), and a few members from Springfield Community Gardens, we were ready to work. Derek had his team cut wood to build a beautiful cedar plank raised garden bed while the remainder of the volunteers worked on hauling compost from the truck to the desired garden area. Even with nonstop rain, Mike was active and engaged, hauling the compost to the designated area with his ATV and wagon while working right beside the volunteers. Initially, our goal was to encourage Mike, but he had us laughing and smiling, while encouraging us! He made us feel welcome, as though we were all longtime friends; And as noted before, he inspired us all with his energetic personality and his nonstop work ethic while showing no signs of giving in to his own disability.
What was unfortunate is the second batch of compost we purchased. It was quickly discovered that the compost was high in percentage with manure! Mike kept us laughing while we hauled the compost from my truck to the bed, even as the hauling became more difficult due to the smell and the rain.
When the garden was complete, and vegetables planted, Mike told us that his wife, who had recently passed away, always wanted a garden and they just never got around to building one. Mike then asked Derek if he would consider building a few more raised beds on his property because he would like to create a community garden for the veterans that lived in his neighborhood. On May 14th, we did just that! We built 3 more beds on his property with an additional bed at his daughter and son-in-law’s home (both veterans). Rise & Go created a plaque for the community garden that is now adorned as “Tracy’s Garden”, in remembrance of his wife.
Our hope is to continue working with Mike in his garden with a goal to bring new friends, and to help build community within his neighborhood. A few words come to mind that demonstrate what the collective group felt while working on this project; Empowered, encouraged, a new sense of purpose, and grateful for being a small part of such a big day.
Personally, I left there knowing my journey was more than building a raised garden, it was connecting with Mike, Erika, and Jacob’s journey! Our lives were purposely planted at that time to be together. We created unity.
Monetary donations are the easiest way to give, as it is the most versatile gift. We make a lot happen with a little, so no gift is too small. You can visit www.riseandgo.com/donate to make monetary donations.