Art of Aging: Heroic Gardens helps residents of the Edison 64 Veteran Community beautify their surroundings and connect with nature

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) – Kenneth Tucker knows firsthand what it is to serve our country. He served in the army in 1976 and later joined the national guard.

Nearly two years ago, Tucker moved into the Edison 64 Veterans Community in the Fairhill neighborhood of Philadelphia with the help of the Veterans One-Stop Center, a nonprofit organization otherwise known as VMC.

“My partner had passed away and I was on the verge of homelessness,” Tucker said. “I’m really happy to be here.”

VMC executive director Joe Brooks says helping homeless veterans is what drives the VMC, which was founded 40 years ago by Vietnam veterans.

Brooks says Edison 64 was a group project formulated to address veteran homelessness in Philadelphia.

The Veterans Housing Project is located on the former site of Edison High School. This high school suffered the most combat casualties of any high school in the United States during the Vietnam War.

“64 young men went to Southeast Asia and never came back,” Brooks said. “And what better memorial to those 64 than a building caring for veterans now.”

During the pandemic, the MVC has partnered with Heroic Gardens, another nonprofit, in an effort to create a safe community.

“Our mission is to connect American veterans to plants and nature,” said Collie Turner, founder of Heroic Gardens. “We are working with facilities for veterans who want to start a gardening program to help bring this to life.”

Turner says the reason behind this is because “there is a healing impact when you work with plants.”

Tucker says it’s a useful activity because it gives the resident veterans something to do and “it takes the stress off a bit.”

Recently, Heroic Gardens horticulturist Peg Schofield came on-site to teach veterans how to care for their new outdoor garden.

Schofield says inverted stairs have been installed with planters so residents can more easily plant and grow small plants, like flowers and herbs.

“There are certain goals in mind, like socializing,” Schofield said. “We know there’s a lot of pride when they do their projects.”

“The hope is, her spirits lifted and her beauty brought,” Brooks said.

“It’s very exciting,” Schofield said. “And it’s an honor to serve them.”

For more information:
Edison 64 Veterans Community
Multi-service center for veterans
Heroic Gardens / Veterans and Gardening, Learning to Cultivate Hope

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