The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, a leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding the lives of severely wounded veterans of the War on Terror, presented a $25,000 grant to the Rockville-based Madison House Autism Foundation to fund Commercial Greenhouse Project at the foundation’s Madison Fields farm located in Dickerson.
The presentation was made during a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Madison Fields, located at 21355 Big Woods Road in Dickerson.
The grant will provide over one-half of the initial funding required to construct and operate the first commercial greenhouse to benefit combat-wounded veterans and other individuals with PTSD and I/DDs – intellectual or developmental disabilities. The Foundation hopes that the Coalition’s leadership will prompt other veterans organizations and private foundations to match, or contribute to, the Coalition’s funding, thus bringing the project to fruition.
“We are always looking for innovative, cutting-edge programs that can provide immediate, and lasting, benefit to the combat-wounded veterans community,” said David Walker, President and CEO of the Leesburg, Va.-based Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes. “We are big believers in the Madison Fields’ commercial greenhouse project, which we believe will be a model for others to follow all across the nation. We’re proud to support this important initiative from the ground up.”
The 3,000-square-foot commercial greenhouse will be dedicated to hydroponic growing of leafy- green vegetables, which can be profitably sold by veterans in local restaurants, food banks, and markets near Madison Fields. This on-site profit-making enterprise will employ and train veterans, especially wounded veterans, while providing a national prototype of an agricultural employment business that provides valuable workforce education, training and development for veterans. Several expert job coaches will be hired to facilitate required job training in growing and selling hydroponic agricultural produce. Agricultural professors from local and U.S. state universities will also be invited to participate in the training and education for veterans.
“Roughly 300,000 post-9/11 veterans live within a one-hour radius of Washington, DC, so our programs and facilities at Madison Fields are uniquely situated to provide renewal, relaxation, respite, recreation and retaining, particularly for those suffering from PTSD, in an idyllic, agricultural environment,” said Dr. Gregory A. Prince, Founder of the Madison House Autism Foundation and Chair of Madison Fields Veterans Renewal Project. “We are so grateful for the tremendous jump-start the Coalition has given us to bring our greenhouse project to life. With the Coalition’s help, the Madison Fields Veterans Renewal Project will serve as a national demonstration project not only for those providing medical services in the military, but also to the VA, veterans service organizations, the disabilities community, special education organizations, the amputee community and for professionals in rehabilitation medicine and services in general.”
Madison House Autism Foundation has more than a decade of research, collaborations, and program support for the millions of adults with autism and unique talents. The partial gift of a 400-acre farm called Madison Fields bordering Montgomery and Frederick Counties provides the setting to spearhead employment, wellness, and housing programs and prototypes for these individuals and other underserved populations.
Now, Madison Fields has leveraged its research and partnership collaborations with a renewal, transition, recreation and employment training center for veterans. The Madison Fields Veterans Renewal Project will offer a broad range of special programs to supplement on-going equestrian training and employment, both regular and therapeutic, to include job creation, workforce development, agribusiness and educational training, PTSD counseling and treatment, and interaction with the autistic community.
Since its establishment in 2004, the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes has provided an immediate, invaluable lifeline to thousands of America’s combat-wounded veterans. The organization is distinguished from other veteran-focused groups by its direct financial assistance to America’s wounded heroes. Its Emergency Financial Aid program has stopped foreclosure proceedings on veterans’ homes and kept their vehicles from being repossessed. Its innovative Heroes Thanking Heroes program provides transitional, part-time, flexible employment to nearly 50 combat-wounded veterans or their primary caregivers, enabling them to make phone calls from their homes, usually to personally thank donors for their contributions to the Coalition.
Photo courtesy Madison House Autism Foundation