A team from the Portage Lowe’s store visited Keystone Veteran Transitional House (KVTH) on Friday, Oct. 29 to build eight raised-bed garden boxes and install fencing for a therapy garden.
“A lot of the Vets enjoy gardening; it’s truly therapeutic during a very stressful time in their lives,” says Tyrone Thrash, Keystone Housing Coordinator.
Keystone Veteran Transitional House (KVTH) is a 12-bed shelter for homeless military service veterans located at 422 E. Stockbridge in Kalamazoo. Integrated Services of Kalamazoo (ISK) opened KVTH in the summer of 2020. Individuals accepted into the KVTH program are connected with housing resources in the Kalamazoo County area as well as the Battle Creek VA.
ISK’s Veteran Navigator Juan Gonzalez says the evidence shows horticultural therapy could be significantly beneficial to KVTH residents. “According to research, horticultural therapy helps with the mitigation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, depression, and other mental health problems,” Gonzalez says.
Other benefits of gardening therapy include stress reduction, improved attention, and improved individual and group goal-setting, as well as the positive impact of being outside in the fresh air. For more information from Christopher Imler, Consumer Horticulture and Veterans Liaison with Michigan State University Extension, click here.
The KVTH staff worked with Lowe’s manager Jim Merkle, a Marine Corps veteran himself, to design the garden.
Working together to grow a healing space for veterans
Many veterans were part of the work crew on Oct. 29:
Helpers from Portage Lowe’s included Chip Conine, Danny Robinson (Army vet), Jim Merkle (store manager, Marine Corps vet), J.D. Scruggs (Marine Corps vet), Jon Schurr (Air Force vet), Mark Sperti, and Nicole Gustavson.
Keystone Veterans on hand were Mike Dasilva (Navy), Timothy Cobbins (Army), and Lito Nevado (Marine Corps).
Also present from ISK: CEO Jeff Patton, David Anderson (Director of Facilities), Juan Gonzalez (Veteran Navigator), Tyrone Thrash (Keystone Housing Director), and Jackie Mitchell (Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist). Photo at right courtesy of Tyrone Thrash; all others by Annette Shutty, Social Marketing Coordinator.