I’ve participated in countless Team Depot projects to help veterans in my role as The Home Depot Foundation Field Manager. While it is always a rewarding experience, we completed a project in Tampa recently that was so meaningful that the pictures just cannot do it justice.
With this project, our Team Depot volunteers transformed a drab space into an outdoor inspiration for wounded warriors adjusting to their new lives with spinal cord injuries. The project was in partnership with the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and the USO, to create an outdoor space for this 100-bed top notch Spinal Cord and Rehabilitation Center that serves veterans who have been severely injured in the line of duty.
Team Depot’s plan was to create a meaningful outdoor space attached to the Spinal Cord Injury Recreational Therapy room. The current space began with an automatic sliding glass door that opened to a 6′ long concrete walkway…that was it. Beyond the walkway was an inaccessible ground fraught with rocks and dirt that served no purpose.
To Team Depot, this was a blank canvas. After working with a community partner to pour a large concrete pad, Team Depot installed a vibrant landscape with trees, potted plants and benches. This may not seem like much but this is actually where the story gets good.
During the project, we received word that a group of veterans going through recreational therapy were supposed to have a horticulture class that day. Veterans were going to be in front of computers while someone lectured about horticulture. While I’m sure it would have been interesting – one of our volunteers just so happened to be a The Home Depot garden expert. So we decided to change the curriculum.
At the center of the entire project was a round garden bed. We decided to leave it unplanted so the veterans scheduled to participate in the horticulture class could actually get their hands dirty to learn about real plants instead of viewing them online. Our garden associate led an hour-long class educating the veterans about various facets of horticulture. Then, she worked with each veteran to help them plant their plant in the garden bed to formally finish off the project.
Afterwards I spoke with one of the veterans about the class and how we may be of help going forward. What he said truly struck a chord with me, “Every day we wake up and go to work (that’s what we call therapy), each day is a scheduled with classes and therapy to move us one step closer to self-sufficiency. Some of us may never be able to walk again, but only the doctors believe that. Day in and day out, we rarely get to see new things, we rarely get to be a part of new things. However, because of this garden area, every day during therapy we can see the seasons change the plants, we can even watch the colors form and change. For me, I’m glad I get to watch my plant grow, change, live and serve.”
By: Joe Wimberley, The Home Depot Foundation Field Manager, Southern Division