Home Depot donation offers ‘thank you’ for Vets’ service

Published 12:08 am Saturday, April 25, 2015

RESERVE — Brandi Hernandez was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office last week when she received a call bearing unfortunate news.

“Miss (Barbara) Estavan called me and told me, ‘Brandi, don’t be alarmed, but I have to tell you … your garden has been destroyed,’” Hernandez recalled. “I was fighting back tears.”

An example of the damage done to the garden after last week’s hailstorm.

An example of the damage done to the garden after last week’s hailstorm.

Hernandez, who works with the Department of Veteran Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Reserve, has been at the forefront of cultivating a garden outside the Veterans Home for the past three years, for the purposes of providing healthier eating choices for the veterans and also providing an outlet for those veterans who have an  interest in allowing their green thumb to flourish.

But last week’s constant rain, highlighted by a flurry of hail, left the garden tattered, torn and essentially in need of a complete restart.

“We were going to see if we had anything left in the budget to work with,” Hernandez said, “and if not, Miss Estavan and I had already decided to do what we had to out of pocket. I called Home Depot as soon as I could, hoping they had enough left in-season to work with.”

But that’s where this story makes the turn toward a happy ending.

“I explained our situation and was hoping maybe they’d cut us a deal,” Hernandez said. “They asked if they could call me back in a few minutes. Less than five minutes later, the manager called me back and told us they wanted to help. They didn’t ask for a penny from us.”

On April 17, Home Depot department supervisor Chrissy Nelson and assistant manager Nicole Montalbano arrived at the Clinic with replenishment for the lost garden.

“We’re just so grateful,” Hernandez said. “Seventy-five percent of our garden needed to be completely replaced, and they just came through in such a huge way.”

Tomatoes, eggplants and bell peppers are among the treats that grow in the garden, and Hernandez said while some are hesitant to involve themselves in the gardening process early on, many have come around and learned to love it.

“It’s therapeutic and serene,” Hernandez said. “It’s something both our patients and volunteers look forward to. It’s another way for them to build camaraderie with one another. When they’re out here, you hear (veterans) who haven’t met before asking, ‘What infantry were you in?’” It’s a way for them to have contact with one another and share the experiences they’ve had over a hobby.”