When Staff Sgt. Jay Quenneville recalled the time he left for pre-deployment training and three days later water was coming through the roof of his home, he expressed a level of frustration many service members have felt.
“No amount of phone calls helps to fix the problem,” he said of the helplessness he felt at the time. “Focusing on the mission at hand is hard when you’re distracted by the stuff back home.”
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Quenneville, a member of the Vermont National Guard, is the owner of Jay’s Snow Plowing in Fairfax, Vermont, which officially opened for business in December 2020. His passion for helping fellow military families, however, started long before.
“In 2019, one of the units in our organization deployed and since I was back here, I did snow plowing for the unit member’s families that were left behind, for free,” he said.
His desire to help families who are facing obstacles stems from the feeling he had – and they aren’t limited to plowing snow in the winter months. That’s why when Ki Matsko, program director of Project EverGreen’s GreenCare for Troops/SnowCare For Troops, reached out to Quenneville, he was eager to get involved.
The GreenCare for Troops/SnowCare for Troops programs fall under Project Evergreen, a greenspace organization with a goal to bring families and communities together to make a greener, healthier, cooler earth, Matsko said. In 2006, board members decided to give back to military families by helping with lawn care during deployments. In 2010, snow and ice removal were added to the services offered.
Most of the services provided to military families are performed by professionals in the lawn and landscape industry, many of whom transition to snow removal in the winter months.
Both programs are available to deployed service members E-6 and below. The services are available during deployment at the service member’s residence and the lot must be smaller than 1 acre. Deployment orders are required, and service members can use this program every time they deploy.
Matsko said the process of connecting families and volunteers is focused on keeping the family safe and comfortable, while also providing the help they need.
“We don’t give the family’s information to the volunteer match, we give the family the information of the volunteer,” she said. “The family then reaches out to the volunteer and the volunteer can contact GreenCare to verify. Safety is a priority.”
Matsko also said the military family does need to be proactive when setting up the services, but doing so makes it easier all around. That way they can explain to the volunteer about gates on the yard, pets or other specifics of their yard.
GreenCare is available in all 50 states and is always looking for volunteers to help families. Some of the volunteers are service members, like Quenneville, and others just want to help.
“It may be snow for one family and the heat going out for another, I just want to help as many families as a I can,” Quenneville said. “Snow plowing is something I can help with.”