By Cleve Bryan


CLAYTON, N.J. (CBS) – A South Jersey housing complex offers veterans not only a place to call home, but it will soon provide a special place to grow friendships and fresh produce. It took thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteers’ hours to make this victory garden a reality, and it’s all for veterans.

“Our dream is that it becomes a real community,” Bernadette Blackstock, of People For People Foundation, said. “All of the residents can come out, have a cup of coffee in the morning, pull some weeds.”

Providing a peaceful place for veterans to live is one of the main goals for the People for People Foundation in Gloucester County. Step 1 was completed last year with the opening of Came Salute.

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To the organization’s knowledge, it’s the only housing complex in the United States that gives first preference to veterans.

“Everybody is just great and wonderful here,” Lorie Stang, a marine veteran, said. “They help you out with things you need.”

While veterans have sacrificed so much for their country, there are many who are eager to give back.

On Friday, nearly 100 volunteers from Home Depot gathered to celebrate the opening of a victory garden at Camp Salute.

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Over the last month, they spent more than 1,000 hours building it, using part of a $76,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation.

“They come here, they work for a few hours and they go to their jobs in the Home Depot store,” Home Depot project manager Rich Gess said. “But that culture in Home Depot is so strong of giving back and building relationships, it’s just ingrained. They’re orange-blooded and they want to do it.””

Victory gardens, or war gardens as they were sometimes called, date back to World War I when communities would plant them to help ease the food supply.

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The one in Clayton will feature fresh vegetables, places to sit and meditate, and it’s decorated with meaningful tributes to those who serve the country.

“There is absolutely nothing I can say other than we are eternally grateful for bringing this part of our dream to a reality,” Blackstock said.

As the fruit and veggies eventually grow in Clayton, Camp Salute plans to have future community and harvest events.