At Kemko Lawn Services in Loganville, Georgia, many employees have a strong tie to the military. Owner Michael Boyd is a veteran of the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. Now that he’s done serving his country, his company sets aside time to serve other military families in the area.
Jaime Wright, office manager, is the daughter of a veteran. So, when the lawn care company found out about a program that would allow them to give back to families of service members, she knew they absolutely had to get involved. Through the Project EverGreen program, Kemko is able to provide free services to active military families.
Starting the service.
In 2003, a group of green industry pros collaborated to start Project EverGreen, which initially focused on educating people about the benefit of green spaces.
“What we did in 2003 and what we do today is kind of different,” says Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “It was really started to promote the benefits of green spaces. We wanted to share that message with people that don't work in those jobs day in and day out. So, it was kind of started as a PR initiative.”
The organization revisited its mission in 2006 and GreenCare for Troops was born. Someone suggested the idea at a board meeting, and Code says the program has been running strong ever since.
The program matches landscaping companies willing to volunteer their time and resources with families who have an active duty service member in their home.
This can assist spouses who are caring for their household while their loved one is away, or even benefit returning service members who may be injured and need to readjust to civilian life.
“It was a good way for modern landscape professionals or superintendents or irrigation professionals to share the gift of green space or to give back to our military heroes who are serving our country,” she says.
The program currently has volunteers in all 50 states and is managed through a database that works to pair landscapers with families in need of lawn services. A sister program was developed as well to help families in the winter months with snow removal.
“The military families register, and they list the services they would like to receive,” Code says. “And the volunteers register for the program and they list what services they can provide and how far they're willing to travel. And then the database matches those two together.”
Code says in some cases the program has more volunteers than families, and sometimes they have an abundance of families that could use the help.
So Project EverGreen launched an awareness week for GreenCare for Troops to help spread the word to potential volunteers.
“We've been doing that for at least three or four years,” Code says. “So it's just a great way to raise awareness of the program, recruit more volunteers and it gives existing volunteers a way to get the message out.”
Recently, they also put forth a recruiting challenge for current volunteers. The program offered a limited-edition T-shirt to any volunteer who can recruit new volunteers. The recruit would also be rewarded with the T-shirt.
“Contractors love T-shirts,” Code says. “We’ve seen a definite uptick in registrations. It runs throughout the month (of July).”
Serving those who serve.
In Virginia Beach, Virginia, Ricardo Melgoza was looking for ways to get involved with the local military community. Melgoza’s company, Melgoza Lawn Care, started in 2010, and he wanted to eventually be able to give back to his community. When he was finally in a place to do so, he started exploring what his options may be.
He was in an area with a large military base, so after reaching out to Wounded Warrior Project to let them know he was willing to provide landscaping services for a few houses, he was contacted by someone at Project EverGreen.
“It’s not always about making money,” Melgoza says. “You have to give a little bit, too.”
After he was contacted by Project EverGreen, he shared the information with a few friends he has in the military.
He wanted to be sure the work he was doing was benefitting service members, and that they would get it at no cost.
“Once we knew it was the real thing, we offered to do three houses per season,” he says.
For Melgoza and his crew, they care for the lawn at each home until the service member comes back from duty. This means they may not have the same houses for the whole season and may go through more than four different families.
A strong connection to the military led the team at Kemko Lawn Service to get involved with GreenCare for Troops as well. Wright says Kemko saw an ad for the program through one of the software systems.
“The owner of our company is a veteran. My father is a veteran and it’s something we didn’t know existed,” Wright says. “So, we thought, ‘let's absolutely participate.’”
Kemko provides lawn care services to four families currently, and they have been able to work with GreenCare for Troops to extend their services to the families of retired service members as well.
“It's just a great program,” she says. “I mean, we absolutely need to do what we can.”