Domiciliary Vets harvest benefits from new garden - VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System
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Domiciliary Vets harvest benefits from new garden

Veteran Joe Tacoronte with raised garden beds

Veteran Joe Tacoronte, showcases the raised beds he utilized to grow a community garden at the domiciliary where he was a resident before finding stable housing.

By Terri Rorke
Thursday, August 20, 2020

How do you make the most of difficult times? Plant a garden! 

That's what Veteran residents and staff of VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System’s (VA ECHCS) Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program have been up to during the pandemic.

Vegetables in a bowl
Domiciliary residents have been enjoying a bounty of benefits from their harvest these days in the form of healthy dinner salads, grilled Shisto peppers, fresh cilantro on tacos and strawberry mint delight desserts—all prepared by the domiciliary kitchen. Next on the menu is fresh salsa and jalapeño poppers once more vegetables are ready to pick. By harvesting produce and incorporating them into their meals, Veterans are not only cultivating nutritious habits, but also gaining life skills and more.

Much like Victory Gardens that sprung up around the country in the early 1900s to support the war effort during both world wars, Veterans of the domiciliary program are finding a variety of benefits through their garden first planted in May by both residents there and an interdisciplinary VA ECHCS team.

The Domiciliary serves as a home for Veterans at risk of homelessness where they are served by a clinical care team made up of medical, psychiatric, vocational, educational and social services.

The community garden project was first brought to life by former Army Veteran resident Joe Tacoronte who, along with Dietician Beth Hovel and Recreation Therapist Jessica Conyers, began utilizing raised garden beds that were installed in September 2019 by Coresite employees as part of their community service day project. Tacoronte took ownership of the project that new residents kept growing strong when he later found housing.

Residents have been enjoying a bounty of benefits from their harvest these days in the form of healthy dinner salads, grilled Shisto peppers, fresh cilantro on tacos and strawberry mint delight desserts—all prepared by the domiciliary kitchen. Next on the menu is fresh salsa and jalapeño poppers once more vegetables are ready to pick.

Missing Man table
One special touch from the garden is the Veterans’ Honor Rose. When these special roses blossomed, a current domiciliary resident thoughtfully placed a rose on the POW/MIA place setting, also known as the ‘Missing Man Table’ in the community room.

By harvesting produce and incorporating them into their meals, Veterans are not only cultivating nutritious habits, but also gaining life skills and more.

"Some therapeutic benefits of gardening include increased time spent outdoors in nature, increase in Veteran socialization and stress reduction," Conyers said.

"The garden has really brought everyone together and has been a special part of the community this year," she added.

One special touch from the garden is the Veterans’ Honor Rose. When these special roses blossomed, a current domiciliary resident thoughtfully placed a rose on the POW/MIA place setting, also known as the ‘Missing Man Table’ in the community room.

With much success from this year’s garden, the domiciliary team hopes to continue growing the garden in years ahead.

The Domiciliary Care Program is VA's oldest health care program first established in the 1860s to provide a home for disabled volunteer soldiers of the Civil War and has evolved into an active clinical rehabilitation and treatment program committed to serve economically disadvantaged Veterans today.

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