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One Simple Question Can Be a Turning Point

Healing garden

Red Cross adult and youth volunteers from McGuire Veterans Medical Center, Fort Lee and the greater Richmond area work at the Healing Garden.

The American Red Cross created a healing garden at McGuire Veterans Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, to offer patients a way to benefit from the therapeutic activity of gardening.

Many veterans across the country either live in, or have an extended stay at the numerous veterans’ hospitals nationwide. These medical facilities sometimes become their new homes. Often people there become their new extended family, or as one veteran told a volunteer who regularly visits him – “his best friend”.

This transition happens more smoothly for some than others. Many groups and organizations step in to make this time easier for our veterans as a way to say “thank you” for serving our country. As it turns out, sometimes, one simple question helps to facilitate that transition.

The American Red Cross at McGuire Veterans Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, helped to create a healing garden with a 2008 grant from the Department of Defense. The garden offers patients in wheelchairs and on spinal gurneys a way to benefit from the therapeutic activity of gardening.

A Horticultural Club meets weekly to plant and tend the garden and learn about various agricultural topics. It gives the veterans a chance to come outside, engage in conversation and remain physically active. There are even specially designed gardening tools, modified to make use and access easier for veterans with physical/mobility issues. This program is run by Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) volunteers, coordinated under Master Gardener, Certified Beekeeper, and Red Cross Volunteer, Chris Buck.

Recently the club met for garden upkeep, as well as a presentation on harvesting honey. Buck brought out bee keeping equipment, tools used to harvest honey, and some recently harvested honey. In the session, she discussed how honey is made and obtained. She then asked the question: “What are the three castes of bees in the hive?” One veteran slowly answered the question: “queen, worker, drone.”

The veteran’s answer to the question was one of the first times therapists had seen him communicate or take an interest in anything.

Buck and the other Red Cross volunteers were thrilled to know their program had touched this person. They were doing what they always do – trying to make a difference in someone else’s life. Who knew, that for that one veteran, all it would take was one simple question.

The Red Cross provides about 400,000 services to members of the military and veterans every year. These include relaying emergency messages and linking military families during an emergency, connecting families with local resources and supporting Wounded Warriors and patients in military and veterans’ hospitals. More information on how the Red Cross helps members of our country’s armed forces, our veterans and civilians is available on this web site.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.