Neighborhood Projects

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The VETS program has been very active in a number of Essex County municipalities, including the development of a new community garden in Newark and landscaping maintenance and construction services at various County parks.

The new VETS Community Garden on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Newark was designed, installed and maintained by the trainees. The development of this garden was the first step to helping the veterans get the hands-on training to make them self-sufficient employees after graduation.

The class took over a vacant lot owned by the Rutgers 4-H program and began cleaning it up through the removal of trash and debris. The trainees then designed the garden, which now includes raised vegetable beds, a brick patio, planter boxes, benches built from discarded pallets, and a hoop system to cover the plants during the winter. In the summer of 2014, the trainees successfully grew a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, artichokes and ornamental sunflowers.

Vegetables from both the community garden and the VETS greenhouse are donated once per week to local residents and the food bank at the Willing Heart Community Care Center. Each week, the VETS program donates approximately 200 heads of vegetables and seedlings each week to the Willing Heart Community Center, helping individuals in the Central Ward of the City of Newark.

During the first year, trainees also provided landscaping maintenance services at a number of Essex County Parks, installing an irrigation system at the Presby Memorial Iris Garden, planting new dogwood trees in Brookdale Park in Newark and pruning greenery in Branch Brook Park in Newark.

The 2015 class was involved in a number of community projects including planting trees in Riverside County Park, work to improve the irrigation system at the Kearny Community Garden and the refurbishment of a property owned by the Passaic River Coalition in Lyndhurst, NJ.