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      Keokuk residents break ground on new Veterans Community Garden

      Keokuk residents break ground on new Veterans Community Garden

      A nonprofit group that heavily supports America's veterans broke ground on a new community garden in Iowa Saturday.

      Supporting Our Soldiers, also known as SOS, opened its garden for veterans off of South Seventh Street in Keokuk.

      A few years ago, Deborah Whitaker and other members of Supporting Our Soldiers created a program to help veterans grow their own produce.

      "Back in 2012, we started a community garden project at that time, we had 12 local veterans that started their gardens," Whitaker said.

      For a long time, it's been a dream of Whitaker's to open a public community garden for veterans in the city.

      "Our first year was mostly gardens at their home site, but there were a few local veterans that did not have an area for a local garden," Whitaker said.

      Now, her dream has become a reality.

      "We had a local veteran that said, "I have an area and I'd like to donate it for the use of a Veterans Community Garden,"" Whitaker said.

      It's a generous gesture Whitaker appreciates.

      "I'm a Three Star mom, and we needed to get together to bond to relax, to talk about our guys' experiences and through this, basically, it's therapy through gardening," Whitaker said.

      Early Saturday morning, a few veterans and volunteers dug two huge plots that are both a 120 feet long by 20 feet wide.

      "We all came out and pulled out a lot of roots," Denning said. "We're going to plot out 10 by 20 foot garden plots for all the veterans who are involved."

      Nicholas Denning served in the United States Army and the Iowa National Guard.

      Denning said this projects goal is to help veterans strengthen their bond with each other.

      "It brings the veterans, the soldiers back together, the guys that don't get to see each other that often," Denning said.

      Andy Krogmeier served in the Iowa National Guard.

      Krogmeier said this garden will help him pick up a new positive hobby.

      "It's more like growing than tearing stuff down, which you see a lot in the military," Krogmeier said. "Come out here and grow stuff and create new life. It's really neat."

      Whitaker hopes that many veterans use the garden to plant and harvest produce for themselves and their families.

      "All of the soldiers will grow a tremendous amount of fresh produce and we're hoping they can, can freeze and dry and put as much of this in their freezers," Whitaker said.

      Next Monday, Supporting Our Soldiers will set up a series of donation booths throughout the Keokuk area.

      If you donate one dollar to the Supporting Our Soldiers, that money will be used to purchase either one seed packet or one pack of plants for the Veterans Community Garden.