When students are asked by their teacher on the first day of school, “What did you do on your summer break?” most probably list where they went on vacation, what travel sports league they played on or where they worked.
For Robyn Jackson’s three children – ages four to 11 – the answers would include some of the usual fare, but they would also talk about how they helped Lt. Steve and his family.
Lt. Commander Steve (last name withheld) is a member of the U.S. Navy currently on a year-long deployment in the Middle East, and Jackson and her three children have been taking care of his yard as part of Project EverGreen’s GreenCare for Troops initiative.
What inspired the Wixom, Michigan (a Detroit suburb) resident – who is a social worker, not a landscape contractor, by trade – to involve her children to get involved and make a difference?
“Each summer we try and do something that gives back to a community member in need,” says Jackson, who has previously volunteered her family to help with Meals on Wheels or delivering cookies. “A family friend recommended GreenCare for Troops, and when I found out about the program it was the perfect activity.”
Jackson and her family were matched with Steve who has three children of his own, ages three, six and nine, and they visit every Thursday to mow and edge.
“We talk about the sacrifice he is making for us and how they can help by doing something simple as cutting the grass,” says Jackson. “They are excited about doing something good for someone who is protecting them.”
A side benefit is that Jackson’s kids have struck up a friendship with Steve’s children, and after the work is done they have a chance to play and have fun on the freshly mowed grass.
Jackson says the visits also give Steve’s mother, who watches the children, a break and takes something off her to do list.
“I can’t imagine the responsibility she carries each day caring for her grandchildren and if our visit helps her by removing the burden of taking care of the yard and allowing the kids to make new friends, then we have done something more than mow a lawn,” adds Jackson, who has had several members of her own family serve in the military in years past.
When asked what she hopes her children take away from the experience, Jackson says she wants them to realize the world is a bigger place than their own family and friends.
“I hope they learn helping someone out is a normal thing to do and that they pass that feeling forward as they grow up,” adds Jackson.
To learn how you can volunteer to assist families of deployed military personnel and post 9/11 veterans with a service-related disability, VISIT or call 888/611-2955.