Guardian House is a division of the Saratoga County Rural Preservation Company, which manages it. Located on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa, the 10-bed, shared-room transitional housing facility, is dedicated to helping female veterans returning from active duty. The Guardian House is the first fully-operating house of its kind, and only one of two in New York State dedicated to women veterans.
Saturday’s project is the culmination of a long partnership between Chip’s Landscaping owners, husband and wife Sue and Chip DuBois, and Saratoga Kohl’s manager, Suzanne Trudell, leading this project together as they have done for the past three years at other sites. Give-back projects are an annual contribution of Kohl’s Cares Associates in their Action National Go Green Event combining Earth Day with national volunteer week. This year other Kohl’s stores including Clifton Park, Colonie and Amsterdam are joining the Saratoga store in its efforts and adding their allotted $1,500 of corporate contributions. Kohl’s and Chip’s Landscaping projects continue to grow every year, with Saturday’s project hosting 35 volunteers, including 20 from Kohl’s.
“Kohl’s is really excited for their third year in a row partnering with Chip’s Landscaping. It’s pretty incredible to be directly part of something that actually gives back to the community,” remarked Trudell.
When DuBois was contemplating her choice of project to lead this year, the idea of helping local veterans came to her immediately.
“In light of everything that is going on in our country and abroad, combined with the fact that my dad is a veteran, in my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to do something for veterans. But I also wanted to involve youths. So I had to rethink this to tie all of that in.”
She turned to the Girl Scouts, specifically high school junior and senior girls, who have committed their time and will be on hand the day of build.
“That is our youth connection. Also, our project happens to combine with The Girl Scouts’ 100th year anniversary, and their current commitment to “go green,” DuBois remarked.
The extensive sustainable project planned for Saturday is not your average flower bed. Chip’s is incorporate cutting edge sustainable technology, flowers and an edible garden.
The “build” is actually a three-day project. Sue and Chip will be on-site two days prior to build day to accept deliveries and do work like pulling weeds and cutting out old plant material to prepare the site for volunteers.
“Our definition of sustainability is to have an outdoor environment produce more than it uses, combining plants, wild life, collected and reused rainwater. As opposed to an area that merely uses our resources this one will produce,” said DuBois.
Saturday’s project will incorporate Aquascape, an installed drip irrigation system, which is a water saving feature, that DuBois was first introduced to at a past Hospice Community build project.
From then on she and Chip were hooked on the remarkable systems they saw, received their certifications through Aquascape to install RainXChange systems, and restructured their entire company around bringing these features to customers. The systems harvest hundreds of gallons of water, and store it in filters underground, where it is filtered twice before used to water landscapes. Chip’s estimates 33,000 gallons of water per year can be accumulated from just the Guardian Houses’ back roof.
The water feature of the garden will be a very calming presence, and the ladies are excited about and looking forward to helping install Saturday. They have been saving a donated patio set and gazebo to set that up after the garden is installed.
But DuBois won’t be finished there. She has planned follow-up activities for the near future including a youth planting day and workshops for veterans on how to keep the installed project going.
“That’s our commitment to the project after this one ‘day of build’ is over,” she said.
Some of the female veterans currently residing at Guardian House have children and grandchildren they will be reconnecting with and working side by side with their families come Saturday. Albany-Saratoga Submarine Veterans will also be helping out by welcoming everyone and providing refreshments.
“Veterans here should know they have a place to turn,” said Marge Brahm, administrative manager of Guardian House. Once a member of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), herself, Brahm understands the particular needs female veteran have.
“There are veterans who could be sleeping on a friend’s couch that would still be technically considered homeless. Veterans could be turned off by the idea of dormitory-style living, but here veterans all work together, make dinner every night and share chores,” she explained.
Darcy, a Granville native and resident here since January and also a former member of WAC, learned about the Guardian House through Veterans Affairs, whose members directed her there.
“There’s a small town atmosphere, but there’s also a lot to offer both in this town and the surrounding area. Coming here is the best decision I’ve ever made. I love it because of the people and the programs we’re offered here,” she said.
The Guardian House provides combined resources in health, employment, and creative expression all geared toward helping veterans back into mainstream society.
“The goal is to stay here temporarily. I’m really excited about my re-education here. They really give you a good base. Everybody works together to make it a good place. Different girls land here for different reasons; it’s a mix. I’m very thankful to be here. I still can’t get over the generosity,” said Darcy.
Maggie Kenworthy, another resident and manager of the house agreed. “I am so grateful for this community, the outpour of help and love is overwhelming. As a recovering alcoholic, the water feature (of the new garden) will be a wonderful place for me to meditate,” she said.
Many donations have come through countless organizations and sources, not only for the day of build, but that actually made the home’s opening last year possible. Besides Chip’s Landscaping, and Kohl’s, 10 other local businesses participating asked to help in Saturday’s event including: Allerdice Party Rental; Kerl’s Electric; Dehn’s Flowers; Jerry and Lisa Burke, owners of local Dunkin’ Donuts franchises; Mulholland Enterprises; Steve Sullivan of Olde Bryan Inn and Longfellows Restaurants; Bacigalupo Trucking & Excavation; Atlantic Irrigation; and Aquascape.
If you’d like to make a contribution, Guardian House is presently in need of various gardening equipment including rakes, hoes, gardening gloves and other tools. Call Marge Brahm at (518) 885-0091, ext. 1080 to learn how you can help.