Program brings peace and purpose to local veterans

Sep 14, 2018

Veterans prepare a meal from produce they grew through VA partnership program with EquiCenter.
Credit provided

Some local veterans are finding a sense of purpose and peace as they ride horses, plant and harvest crops, and learn about agriculture at the EquiCenter in Mendon.

"I could feel the weight of the world lifting off my shoulders, saying ' this might be something that could help, ' " said Luanne VanPeursem, a 33-year Air Force veteran who said she was having trouble re-integrating into civilian life until her counselor recommended therapeutic riding.

A partnership between the Canandaigua VA Medical Center and the EquiCenter is part of the VA's whole health initiative.   Dr. Danielle Lutz, PT, WCC, CMTC, manages that line of care for the VA. The focus, she explains, is putting veterans in charge of their own care and allowing them to decide what that should include.

For some, the answer is working on a farm.  Lutz says there are many benefits for veterans.

"Being outside, working with your hands, working with a community of people, building those relationships, being able to see all the hard work you put in pay off."

VanPeursem said she learned to trust again while tending crops with fellow veterans.

"We have a mission,” she explained. “It becomes that camaraderie, like, 'okay, here's our purpose and this is what we're working for.' The next thing you know, you're opening up to each other. And now, you're out in the field working shoulder-to-shoulder, side-by-side, and you're like 'wow, look at this! I planted this plant.' "

More veterans will be able to get agricultural and horticultural training thanks to a grant that will fund a special VA pilot program.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Rural Health is providing nearly $845,000 to expand the initiative to allow for the participation of up to 86 local veterans.

There is a free seminar on whole health care at Monroe Community College’s Brighton Campus, at the R. Thomas Flynn Campus Center, Building 3 on Wednesday, September 26 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The event to all Rochester area veterans and the general public.  To reserve a seat, contact Darlene Trytek at (585) 393-7273 or email darlene.trytek@va.gov

The Canandaigua VA Medical Center and the Rochester VA Outpatient Clinic are offering a Whole Health for Life class for veterans of all eras. The VA says it’s designed to help them achieve better mental, physical, and spiritual health. 

The class is held in Canandaigua on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Building 9, room 238.

At the Rochester VA Outpatient Clinic, the class is on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in room 237/231.  Call (585) 393-7164 to register.