Spring is planting season, but 'giving season' for Rutgers vets is year-round


While the 2015 class of the Rutgers Veterans Environmental and Technology Solutions (VETS) program graduated in December and the ground outside isn’t ready yet for spring planting, some of the program’s graduates worked through the cold months of winter to make sure those at the Willing Heart Community Center always had fresh vegetables.

Rashad Madyun, a U.S. veteran and graduate of the VETS 2015 class, is interested in taking the business and marketing skills he learned in the program to start his own online marketing firm. Under the direction of Rodney Spencer, the program assistant and 2014 VETS graduate, Rashad continued to hone his skills in aquaponics and horticulture in the program’s greenhouse all winter long to the benefit of Willing Heart Community Care Center and its recipients.

Rashad Maydun and volunteer Faust Linette get their hands dirty tending to their bounty at Willing Heart Community Care Center in Newark.

Sign Up for E-News

In 2015, the Rutgers VETS program donated more than 1,900 vegetables weighing 500 pounds to the Willing Heart Community Care Center through weekly drop offs. The veterans also raised and donated hundreds of seedlings, so Willing Heart patrons can grow their own tomatoes and herbs.

The Willing Heart Community Care Center appreciates the donations.  “Programs like Rutgers VETS are exactly what our City needs,” said Maryanna Williford, program director of the Willing Heart Community Care Center. “They are not only helping to train our City’s veterans with skills, but they also stress getting involved in the community.”

The Willing Heart Community Care Center and the VETS program are neighbors at 555 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, due to the generosity and support of the Metropolitan Resurrection Community Development Corporation, an arm of the Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Dr. Amy Rowe, VETS co-director, noted “The classroom portion of the VETS program provides unemployed veterans with the skills they need to get back to work, but the hands-on field experience has come through partnerships and engagement with the community. The trainees work to revitalize distressed neighborhoods through the installation of community gardens, landscape beautification, and by teaching the citizens of Newark how to eat healthy and grow their own food.”

The fresh produce is grown by trainees in the greenhouse all year long, but the VETS program also manages a community garden down the street from the Center that will provide additional vegetables once the growing season starts.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, Willing Heart’s food pantry is open to eligible members of the community. The vegetables are organized by Willing Heart volunteer staff and added to grocery bags full of fresh and healthy foods. Each week, hundreds ofNewark citizens come to the community center to obtain food packages, a hot meal, or clothing.

The VETS program is currently recruiting veterans from Essex County for its 2016 class. For more information, please visit

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Nation’s largest timber office building coming to Bears Riverfront Stadium site in Newark

February 5, 2018

Newark, NJ--Plans to develop the nation’s largest timber office building to be built on Newark's old Bears Riverfront Stadium and adjacent Lincoln motel sites were unveiled Monday by commercial real estate firm Lotus Equity Group.

The 11-story commercial office building, designed by Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture, will anchor Riverfront Square—an ...

Britnee Timberlake Joins New Jersey General Assembly Replacing Sheila Oliver’s Post

January 30, 2018

Former Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake was sworn in Monday to fill the seat vacated by Sheila Oliver, who became the first black woman to assume statewide office in Garden State history when she became lieutenant governor earlier this month.

Timerlake, an East Orange resident, will represent the 34th District, which ...

Low-Income Families Who Need Safe Cribs Have Nowhere to Go

February 15, 2018

One recent email came from a pastor in East Orange, sharing the struggles of a young couple who have no safe place for their baby to sleep.

Then, there was also a phone call from a Newark hospital, making its fourth request in two years, as well as a frantic text from Puerto Rico, for a family who lost everything in the hurricane.

They all pleaded for the same thing: A safe crib for a ...