ROME, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The Travis Mills Foundation received an enormous gift today - in the form of manual labor.
About 100 volunteers helped to completely landscape the area around the foundation's recently purchased retreat center in Rome.
With labor and equipment – the volunteer project is a $100,000 experience.
The amazing thing is that this is peak season for landscapers, but they still decided to take two days away from business just to help out Maine veterans.
“For those guys who have given their all, you've got to give a little something back,” said Al Lappin. “You have to.” Lappin takes his landscaping business on the road each year - to do volunteer work.
This year, volunteer crews are creating a beautiful lawn for The Maine Chance Lodge & Retreat...a remodeled historical home owned by the Travis Mills Foundation.
John Beyer, a South Portland Firefighter and veteran, has never met Mills - but says he admires him enough - so he made the 90 minute trip to volunteer.
“For a man...for a person, period, to go through what he went through and have the outlook on life that he has, and just the internal strength...it's amazing. It's infectious,” said Beyer.
He's not the only one for whom this volunteer experience is personal – it is for Lappin, too. “My youngest brother Billy served in the Coast Guard, so yeah...I've got some connections with that,” he said. “Very personal.” He lost his brother to his battle with PTSD just last year.
Beyer says that the landscaping will be more than something beautiful to look at...it will be a space for veterans like himself and their families to experience that sense of community only known to other vets.
“Explaining what you've done in the military to people that haven't been in the military is very difficult,” said Beyer. “Getting my wife to understand what I've done, things I've seen, things at work - it's a little hard sometimes. Some of the guys here I can just give a nod to. And that's it. That's all you've got to do.”
The retreat center will have its grand opening on June 25.
Mills wasn’t there to see the work on Friday, but will see it for the first time on Saturday.