Heroic Gardens helping residents at Edison 64 Veterans Community beautify their surroundings

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Kenneth Tucker knows first-hand what it's like to serve our country. He served in the Army in 1976 and later joined the National Guard.

Almost two years ago, Tucker moved into the Edison 64 Veterans Community in the Fairhill neighborhood of Philadelphia with help from the Veterans Multi-Service Center, a nonprofit otherwise known as the VMC.

"My partner had passed, and I was on the verge of being homeless," said Tucker. "I'm really happy to be here."

Executive Director of the VMC, Joe Brooks, says helping homeless veterans is what drives the VMC, which was founded 40 years ago by Vietnam vets.

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

The veteran 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 home," said Brooks. "And what better memorial to those 64 than a building taking care of veterans now."

During the pandemic, the VMC partnered with Heroic Gardens, another nonprofit, in an effort to safely build community.

"Our mission is to connect U.S. veterans with plants and nature," said Collie Turner, founder of Heroic Gardens. "We work with veterans' facilities that are interested in starting a gardening program to help that come to life."

Turner says the reason behind this is because, "there's a healing impact when you work with plants."

Tucker says it's a helpful activity because it gives the resident veterans something to do and, "it reduced a little stress."

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

Schofield says inverted stairs were installed with window boxes so residents could more easily plant and grow small plants, like flowers and herbs.

"There are certain goals in mind, such as socialization," said Schofield. "We know there's a lot of pride when they do their projects."

"The hope is, its raised spirits and brought beauty," said Brooks.

"It's very exciting," said Schofield. "And it's an honor to serve them."

For more information:
Edison 64 Veterans Community
Veterans Multi-Service Center
Heroic Gardens / Veterans & Gardening, Learning to Grow Hope
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