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Working tribute to 9/11: Volunteers paint and prune to help addicts

Volunteers in Broward County paid tribute to Sept. 11 victims Tuesday with service projects that included painting houses and planting gardens for veterans and the homeless.

At Keystone Halls, a Fort Lauderdale center for recovering drug and alcoholic, the volunteers began with a moment of silence and then got to work.

In the hot sun with the radio playing Michael Jackson and Journey, volunteers from HandsOn Broward, American Express, Miami Job Corps Center helped peel tar from roof gutters, repainted a home, cleaned yards, and picked up leaves, trees stumps and branches to make way for tarp and wood chips.

Students from the Miami Job Corps Center cut wood to make benches, picnic tables and a butterfly garden for the veterans at Keystone Halls.

“Every time we leave the center, I know we can do something good. I enjoy being here, knowing that we can give back,” said Shatera Howard, a student of the Miami Job Corps Center. “It’s team work, as long as we get the job done and work together.”

Dustin Lewis, a marine and army veteran, helped put together the edges of a hedge garden of coco plums. The gardens will have lantanas, vegetable seeds and bougainvilleas in the middle as a memorial.

“I’m surprised to see this many people,” Lewis said. “They motivate me. If they can change the yard work, they can change the way I am.”

Obstacles of the day: wasp and cockroach nests near the garden.

Judy Lee, a volunteer from American Express, didn’t have any painting experience, but was motivated by her five brothers who are veterans.

“Whatever we can do for the veterans, we should do for them. They were here for us and we need to be there for them,” Lee said.

At Keystone Halls, counselors provide housing and a two-year program to help addicts become independent and rebuild their lives. With the help of the Department of Veteran Affairs and counselors like Donna Hedgepeth, veterans can build their credit score, get their driver’s license and find jobs that they can keep after they leave the program.

“I’m thrilled to death that people are here. There are people here that are really inspired to do a garden for free,” said Ron Malec, executive producer of Keystone Halls. “It’s enthusiasm that builds here.”

In paying tribute to 9/11, HandsOn Broward also led a project Saturday at the Carver Ranches Child Care Center, painting the center and doing gardening with volunteers.