On a beautiful summer day, Bob Hilleshiem basks in the sun as he waters flowers and tomatoes in the garden at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis.
“Growing up on a farm, my mother had three gardens that I tended to,” says Hilleshiem, a current patient at the VA hospital. “I like keeping an eye on the progress the plants make each day.”
Hillsheim is one of many veterans who are able to enjoy the outdoors by cultivating flowers and vegetables in the gardens at the VA Hospital and the Minnesota Veterans Home, also in Minneapolis.
“The veterans and their families appreciate the gardens as a place to get out and enjoy nature,” says Shirlee Peterson, Director of Recreation Therapy at the Veterans Home. “It’s therapeutic for them to get fresh air, dig in the dirt and feel the sun on a nice day.”
The American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program donated the gardening supplies to the veterans hospital and home. Funding for the donation came from a U.S. Federal Government grant of $4,500 for direct patient support for veterans.
The VA Hospital and Veterans Home were given planters of flowers, peas, tomatoes, peppers, beans, herbs, strawberries, mint, and rhubarb. In addition, the Red Cross provided special ergonomic tools and plentiful amounts of soil.
The Red Cross also used the grant money to buy art supplies for the VA Hospital in Minneapolis and the Veterans Home in Silver Bay, MN. The art supplies– such as oven-baked clay, painting materials, and model cars– will be used in art therapy programs for the veterans.
“These types of therapy give veterans a chance to use both motor skills and creativity,” says Angie Erickson, an art therapist at the VA Hospital. “All of the supplies are being put to great use and are very generous.”
Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military members and their families. Story and photos by Shannon Lewis, Communications Intern, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region.