Veterans struggle to install garden

By Dan Hardin, Staff Writer

Men and women who served and are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces choose to fight for the freedom, democracy and way of life for all Americans. These are people who would sacrifice everything (including their lives) to preserve what Americans hold dear.
Similarly, Contra Costa College administrators should consider it an honor and a privilege to give back to our veterans and their families in any way possible.
But for over a year now, a push by the Veterans’ Club on campus to establish a Victory Garden through the normal administrative process has yet to yield any measurable results.
The purpose of the garden is to offer veterans a secluded area to help ease the transition back into civilian life or just a silent space for reflection.
Former veterans outreach coordinator Dedan Kimathi Ji Jaga said the location of the garden is the latest obstacle that needs a solution.
The two locations being discussed are near the General Education Building or the Computer Technology Center.
An important criterion in the choosing of a location is that it has to be ADA accessible and because the campus is built into a hillside, choosing a location becomes that much more difficult.
Ji Jaga said the lack of regular meetings to discuss finding a suitable space contributes to the mounting causes for delays in establishing a garden.
He also said the Veterans’ Club established a partnership with Home Depot, which has an outreach program to assist veterans with some of their causes. Under that agreement, Home Depot has offered financial and construction assistance to help with the development of the garden.
Veterans’ Club President Derek Casanares said because of the length of time it has already taken to find a location, he is afraid funding and other assistance from Home Depot may not come to fruition.
Casanares said campus veterans need a place that would allow them to escape the hustle and bustle of campus life and some space to pause or meditate.
He said initially the veterans on campus thought about trying to partner with the culinary department. However, due to the culinary garden’s failure to meet ADA requirements and the lackluster desire by the culinary program to work with them, they decided to go it alone.
“We only hope that the process will move along a little faster now that the progression has been narrowed to just a couple of locations,” Casanares said. We understand that change in most cases takes time, but the urgency here is that there is low hanging fruit that needs to be picked from the tree.”
Second-year communications student and military veteran Leon Watkins said he would love to see the garden in place before he leaves CCC.
“Not only would such a garden be beneficial to veterans, but also to the general population at the college,” Watkins said. “I admire the work Casanares and Ji Jaga are doing for veterans.”