Of Valor and Vegetables
They may seem like strange bedfellows, but this unusual combination is a perfect mix at Valor House in Missoula, Montana. At Valor House, a veterans’ transitional center, growing and building a new life is the name of the game, in more ways than one. As veterans work to move forward in life, they also work to bring new life into the garden. Elks at Missoula ‘Hell Gate’, Mont., Lodge No. 383 used a Gratitude Grant to help the cause.

One Down, 999 to Go

For many veterans staying at the house, gardening is a therapeutic and rewarding experience. Despite the residents’ hard work, the Valor House garden was in rough shape and would not bloom again. Elks partnered with the local organization 1,000 New Gardens to help this garden grow. Together they purchased supplies and built garden beds from lumber specially treated to last. Then, they rallied their volunteers and headed to Valor House for the big day of installation.

Digging

Valor House residents, Elks and 1,000 New Gardens volunteers dissembled the old garden beds, and set up the new ones with nutritious soil, bedding, plants and vegetable seeds.

“Once everyone started sweating and finding each other’s faces smeared with dirt, the ice broke,” says Project Manager Jacqueline Gaudet. “Nothing brings cohesion like a group effort. This project did a world of good for morale.”

A Well-Earned Meal

When the dirty work of planting was finished, the celebration began. The Elks had another surprise up their sleeves—a barbecue. The Lodge used the rest of the Gratitude Grant funds to have patio furniture and a new grill delivered to Valor House. They also purchased burgers, chicken, and all the supplies needed to put the new grill to work. A volunteer cook from the nearby homeless shelter prepared the barbecue, and the tired gardeners relaxed and enjoyed the new backyard atmosphere.

“It’s such an honor to work with the Elks and 1,000 New Gardens,” says Valor House Program Director Tessa Johnson. “They’ve been so great and helpful. We’re just so thrilled to have their support.”

The Lodge, on the other hand, is thankful for the Elks National Foundation. “Thank you, ENF!” exclaims Gaudet. “It is the Community Investments Program that motivated us to start this project and gave us confidence to address this local need. Together we’ve made this community of veterans very happy.”

The Elks National Foundation helps Lodges serve their communities by offering $2,000 Gratitude Grants. Lodges are eligible to apply for Gratitude Grants after meeting the National President’s per-member goal for giving to the Foundation. To find out more about Gratitude Grants and the Community Investments Program, visit www.elks.org/enf/community.


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