My name is Collie Turner. I'm a third generation amateur gardener who became inspired by the sustainable organic gardening produced by my family.
I've spent my entire life around the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA), which is the world's largest women's patriotic service organization, thanks to my grandparents.
Personally, I first joined the American Legion Auxiliary when I was 16. I had no idea that I could. It was the American Legion Auxiliary that sent me to ALA Keystone Girls State (PA), and then to Washington D.C. to better understand how our government ran, the freedoms we have and what we tend to take for granted.
Fast forward to 2011. My grandmother, at the ripe age of 90 needs to go into assisted living. However, she doesn't have the funds to do this (and neither do I).
It was then I uncovered that she never applied for my grandfather's death benefits (SSgt US Army WWII).
So, I apply. Two years go by. Two years of me re-filing papers, proving who my Grandfather was in the Army, feeling like,' I have a college education, how do I not understand any of this? ' One day, I am introduced to a woman at the Montgomery County PA Veterans Affairs Office -she agrees to meet with me.
When I arrive, I learn that she is involved with Philadelphia Veterans Affairs, is responsible for the team in Montgomery County PA, and she also helps locate housing for returning vets and their families.
Her patience and willingness to help my grandmother truly inspired me and made me think about how I could help those who have served our country.
What if I could combine my love of gardening and connect myself to veterans and their families to help them with simple things like a flower bed? I thought about beautification and pride in property. The spiritual connection and peace gardens brought, the sustainability and the overall opportunity to provide a family with a sense of togetherness. It all seemed to connect.
And then it began to happen. I met an ER nurse who works in a VA hospital in the grocery store. We started talking about soldiers with PTSD and I remember her saying to me "They look ok on the outside, so we have to discharge them, but inside..."
After several conversations with health care professionals, non-profit organizations, PR gurus and military personnel, I decided to socialize the concept and everyone said the same thing to me "When can I help' and 'What weekend do you need me?"
And that's where we are today.
Pictured above, are my grandparents, Clem and Geneva Stevens. They. Are. Awesome. Their unwavering commitment to 'One Nation, under God' their community, their legion posts and their church was unfathomable.
This program is dedicated to them and to all of the men and women that dedicate their lives for our freedom.