DODGE CITY — Members of the Pratt Elks Lodge traveled to Fort Dodge Soldier’s Home near Dodge City in June to start the first phase of the community garden project in conjunction with the Freedom Grant.

Elks members filled six garden boxes with soil and planted flowers and vegetables. The grant, secured by club grant writer Kasey Voss, allowed Pratt to contribute $2,000 for the garden along with helping build it alongside Fort Dodge veterans and maintenance staff.

"We've always had a deep connection with the veterans at Fort Dodge and this grant allowed us to be personally involved with the project," said Pratt Elks Club member Linda Steltzer. "Before we even had the plants all planted, one of the veterans was ready with this watering hose to start watering. They couldn't wait to get up close to the gardens and get their own hands into it."

Since most veterans living at Fort Dodge are in wheelchairs or walkers, the elevated gardens will make it much easier for them to participate in growing and caring for the plants. They will be tending the garden and taking care of the fruits and veggies produced to add another aspect to their daily activities. The produce may be incorporated into their daily meals.

"Putting the gardens together was fun, and it was amazing how quickly the job was completed with everyone helping," said Pratt Elks Lodge member Bev Aldrich.

The Pratt Elks Lodge also supports the Fort Dodge veterans with annual Christmas gifts, visits on Veterans Day when they present certificates of appreciation complete with stars cut from retired American flags and additional grant-funded projects.

Last year, the Pratt Elks helped put in a new parking lot, with members painting the lines and funding the construction.