Garden will help veterans in need
By Eddie Fitzgerald, Sun Journal Staff
Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 15:18 PM.
A program being launched this spring in the Duffyfield area intends to help veterans find employment and provide the community with fresh vegetables.
The Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden will have a groundbreaking at noon March 28 at Henderson Park behind Stanley White Recreation Center. It was
created to empower disabled, disadvantaged and homeless veterans by giving them a place for exercise, camaraderie and training for the job market.
Lovay Wallace-Singleton, executive director of the Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden, started the project in May 2012. It is being operated under the
N.C. Coastal Land Trust, which allows the garden to be run under a 501-C3 nonprofit until its application for nonprofit status is approved, she said.
Singleton, a 20-year disabled veteran of the U.S. Navy, said years ago she saw homeless veterans on news programs and thought something more should be done for
“I love gardening and it helped me rehabilitate some issues I was facing,” she said.
Singleton volunteered to work in the gardens at Tryon Palace and Monarch and thought there should be something similar for veterans, she said.
“I told my husband something should be done, and it seems to be an easy solution,” Singleton said. “He said ‘Why don’t you do it.’”
So far Singleton has raised about $25,000 through grants, donations and fundraisers, she said.
Saturday from 6-8 p.m. another fundraiser will take place at the Firemen’s Museum in downtown New Bern. Representatives from local veteran organizations will there to
discuss what options are available to veterans, Singleton said.
Plans for the garden call for two sheds, a hoop house or greenhouse, about 30 raised garden beds 3 to 4 feet high to aid people with limited mobility, ground beds and
table gardens so veterans in wheelchairs can work, Singleton said.
To see what the garden will look like, go to YouTube and type in Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden to take a virtual tour.
Craven County residents also will benefit through the program with a harvest giveaway. Surplus produce will be placed in a bin for residents and some produce will be
given to the local food bank. In the spring, summer and fall, the veterans’ garden will hold an open house community garden day.
Veterans who want to participate in the Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden will be enrolled in a 10-month program, working in the garden and attending
classes to sharpen their presentation skills to potential employers, Singleton said.
Homeless veterans and those living below the poverty level will get paid for working in the garden, but that might not happen until next year when there is more
funding available, Singleton said.
The program will begin with a two-week assessment to learn about any health needs or issues facing an individual veteran. Off-site classes in financial training,
résumé writing and veterans’ benefits also will be offered. Gardening counseling, classes and seminars will continue from the second month of enrollment to the eight month.
After the assessment and classes, veterans will begin selling the organic vegetables they grow and take classes on how to effectively sell and interact with customers
to achieve financial goals.
“We are trying to provide something that allows them to get back on their feet and make a transition from part-time employment to full-time employment,” Singleton
said. “By working with the community college, the employment office, veterans groups and even the agriculture extension office, we are trying different avenues. We are trying to stop veterans from
fallen through the cracks.”
Dick Totino, commander of the local American Legion post, said Singleton gave a presentation to the American Legion post last summer.
“A number of us got interested in it and support it,” Totino said. “The post supports it.”
Totino said considering the number of veterans in the community it was surprising how low support is for the veterans’ garden.
“This will not only provide some employment, but also training,” he said.
Totino said the New Bern veterans garden would be a “seed program” that he would like to see expanded to Havelock and beyond.”
“I think it will be quite beneficial,” he said.
Eddie Fitzgerald can be reached at 252-635-5675 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @staffwriter3.