MANCHESTER — Jolene and Michael Johnson of Manchester were facing a world of uncertainty and stress ahead of Michael’s Army deployment in late 2018.
Along with the financial struggles that came with trading a civilian salary for a military pay scale, Jolene had been medically discharged from the Navy and was left unable to fully manage and maintain the household.
At a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program ceremony, where families of deploying soldiers are provided with information about services available to them, the Johnsons learned about Project EverGreen and the organization’s award-winning GreenCare for Troops program.
Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Project EverGreen is a national nonprofit committed to bringing people together through its GreenCare for Communities initiatives to make a difference in how yards, parks and communities create a greener, healthier, cooler Earth. Project EverGreen supports military families through the GreenCare for Troops and SnowCare for Troops initiatives.
“I was unaware that such a program was available, and honestly, that was one of the biggest things I was worried about while my husband was gone,” said Jolene, who is raising their 7-year-old son, Steve. “Snow removal and yard work were things I could not do, and because of the financial hardship we were going to be up against, this was not something I was going to be able to budget for.”
Jolene registered for the program online, and her request was quickly answered by two local companies. Mark Aquilino, president of Outdoor Pride Landscaping in Manchester, had signed on to GreenCare for Troops in 2018 to supplement his company’s ongoing work with military families.
“We’d done this ourselves on a smaller scale, but when we saw there was a national model, we were happy to sign up,” says Aquilino. “It’s been a nice marriage of efforts.”
Outdoor Pride took on the snow removal this past winter and is maintaining the landscape this summer to cover Michael’s expected yearlong deployment. And the company will continue with snow removal through this coming winter if needed.
The Johnson assignment is one that many in the Outdoor Pride office are happy to take on, says Aquilino. The company’s large commercial crews feature too much horsepower for home landscapes, so it’s often one of the managers who gets to break away from the cubicle and do the work.
“These guys love to get out, and there’s a lot of pride for whoever gets to do it — to be able to genuinely help somebody and know you are making a difference is outstanding,” says Aquilino.
The Johnsons are also receiving an organic lawn fertilizer and pest control program courtesy of GreenCare for Troops volunteer Lawnmark Plus of Amherst. Owner Tom Kelly has been committed to serving military families for several years, and when he got the call about the Johnsons, he signed them up for the premium service, said Lawnmark’s Anthony DeSantis.
“We’re really grateful to have the opportunity to give back and help out some of our local families in the military, in particular with an active deployment,” he said.
Jolene recognizes that GreenCare for Troops is designed to help military families who are most in need of help.
“It’s the lower enlisted families that benefit the most from this program, and that’s something that those who volunteer can feel very good about,” she said. “I can’t say enough about how much this service means to our family — I was really blown away by the good people out there willing to help.”