One of the longest running programs at the Freedom Farm for Vets has been the Rose Program. The program started as a gift to the veterans as patients in the James A Lovell Federal Health Care Center. Realizing that so many come from other cities and towns in the area, many have no visitors, and often they have no families. The Freedom farm decorates plastic bottles and takes a rose to each patient, in the hospital proper, and to those veterans in the assisted living and long term nursing care facility. The patients in the hospital are often surprised by the visit and the rose and the long term residents look forward to the return visits each week. Several times, children have been among the volunteers delivering the roses and they bring extra joy to the days of those in the hospital. The nursing staff is always included with a bouquet of roses at their stations, because without them, the care of our veterans would not be what it is for them today.
During the Christmas season, the roses are replaced with poinsettias and styrofoam Christmas ornaments, cut out and decorated by the veterans and some of the children that visit the farm. These are especially appreciated for the few that remain in the hospital during the holiday season.
Thank you to all our veterans for your service. We hope that the small token we continue to bring brighten your days in recovery.
Thank you to our many volunteers over the years for their hard work and support, and to the many people donating the roses to the farm in memory or honor of their loved ones.
We want to send a big thank you out to Larsen’s Florist, of Waukegan. They have donated over 35,000 roses over the years and the bedding plants for the gardens. At Christmas, they donate the poinsettias that are delivered to the Medical Center for veterans. They have been an amazing support for the program and we are extremely grateful.
Christmas ornaments at the nurses station
Tending the roses at the farm
The core purpose for the Freedom Farm for Vets has always been to support veterans in need, no matter what the need may be. In the early years of the farm, veterans were in need of furniture for apartment living, equipment for daily living and they had no where to turn. The farm contacted families of other veterans and families in support of the farm and collected needed furniture for veterans ‘getting back in their feet’. The cost? Pay it forward… give to your brothers in arms what you have to give when you no longer need it.
During the first year, a great working relationship with Mr. Mike Peck of the Lake County Veteran’s Association was established. A veteran was in need of a motorized wheel chair, and a manual one to replace his old one. The farm contacted Mr. Peck, who had one as yet unclaimed. The veteran had waited almost 2 years for a wheelchair to get him to appointments and get around his home. He also received a handicapped van to transport himself to the VA and beyond. He was charged nothing and was extremely grateful. It just took someone to step up to do some ‘leg work’ to make a connection and find him what he needed.
The families of veterans have always been considered as a most important part of our military. The wives and children are always welcome to come to visit the animals and the gardens, to learn about how a small farm functions. Although riding the horses is not an option for small children, feeding them and learning about them is truly educational. Horses have been an integral part of the farm since its inception and continue to serve all the veterans that come for a visit.
Active duty military from Great Lakes Naval Base have been welcomed for many years now. The 6-10 recruits come to help with ‘farm chores’ and are treated to a day out of uniform and a picnic of grilled burgers, brats or whatever is on the grill, chips, desert and a nap in the sun. These days for the recruits are special, as so many are far from home and feel like they are out in the country, even thought they are only 20 minutes from the base.
Along with many other projects, the freedom Farm has received grants from The Home Depot to help in housing repairs and improvements for veterans and their families. In one case, two bothers from recent combat, returned and were home bound. The townhouse they were living in had leaking faucets and structural issues. The Freedom Farm was informed of their needs and got the grant to get repairs done for them. During the repair process, black mold was discovered and the project, though much bigger than first expected, was completed and the brothers live in a safe an functional environment now.
The Freedom Farm for Vets was established in January, 2010, at which time they applied for non-profit status. The non-profit 501C-3 accreditation was received in November, 2010. The premise of the farm was to create a place for veterans, active duty and retired, and their families to come to enjoy the peace of a working farm. It began with a barn, built by a WWII veteran in the 1970’s, an organic garden and two horses. It has grown from there, with a focus to assist veterans, and their families, in any way they can. The successes have been varied and greatly appreciated by the recipients. In the next few months, we will review the programs and post available photos.
As always, your support for a unique and successful non-profit organization for veterans is greatly appreciated.