At this time of year, Project EverGreen has shifted the focus of its efforts on behalf of wounded and disabled veterans from the growing season to the snowing season. With winter approaching, the nonprofit organization’s GreenCare for Troops program, underwritten by Toro, begins the shift to SnowCare for Troops with financial support from Boss Snowplows.
Project EverGreen coordinates both programs, providing a place for military families who need the free landscaping and snow-removal services to register. In addition to wounded and disabled military veterans, the program also provides service to the families of deployed military personnel.
Landscaping companies willing to volunteer to help the veterans also register with Project EverGreen and the organization is pushing hard this week to line up more help for winter.
The programs can make a big difference in the quality of life of a wounded veteran. One of the more recent examples involves Heads Up Landscape Contractors in Albuquerque New Mexico, a longtime volunteer with GreenCare for Troops.
When Heads Up management heard through the program about a wounded Army veteran in Albuquerque who needed grass in his backyard for his service dog, the company jumped in with much more than sod and sprinklers.
“We only asked for grass for Lucky, my mastiff/Great Dane service dog,” says Michael Martinez, a disabled veteran whose eight years in the Army included two 15-month tours in Iraq. “Lucky alerts me when I need oxygen for my headaches as a result of a traumatic brain injury, and reminds me to take my medication twice a day.
“He also helps me walk. I have a back injury and I put my weight on him when I go up and down stairs, or when I get tired.”
This past August, Heads Up installed grass, plants, a tree, an irrigation system and gravel in the Martinez’ backyard. The company even installed a garden area for Martinez and his family to plant flowers or vegetables.
The crew returned to the Martinez home in the early fall to spray pre-emergent for weeds and will winterize the irrigation system this month, all at no charge to Martinez. The estimated value of the project was $9,000 to $10,000.
“We’ve participated in the GreenCare for Troops program for seven years,” says Andrew Key, president of Heads Up Landscape Contractors. “It’s very rewarding for us. We’ve taken care of landscaping for eight to 10 service people – some for three months and some as much as a year.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are more than 3.6 million veterans with a service-related disability.
Martinez says the Project EverGreen program, coupled with the generosity of Heads Up Landscape Contractors, has made a big difference in his family’s quality of life.
“Before, it was hard to train the dog outside,” Martinez said. “Now it’s easy to keep up on training, and for the kids to be outside. My son Jaden has autism and his behavior has gotten better because he can be outside on the grass more.”