Wellness & Fitness Programs Grow at Home Base

Last fall, Home Base opened the doors of its new headquarters, laying down new roots in the historic Charlestown Navy Yard and establishing itself as a National Center of Excellence. The new space – complete with a state-of-the-art fitness facility and demo kitchen overlooking the water – has enabled Home Base to expand all its programs, particularly its Health and Wellness arm. From the new vegetable garden or the Warrior Health & Fitness Program’s expansion to include significant others of Veterans and Service Members, it’s clear Health and Wellness is flourishing at Home Base.

While health and wellness services have been an essential part of Home Base since its inception, its new headquarters has solidified the presence of these focuses and enabled the team to take a closer look at ways to grow and improve their programming.

“It’s an exciting time for the Warrior Health & Fitness Program,” said Ryan Vanderweit, MS, CSCS, who has been with Home Base since 2015 and currently serves as the Program Director.

This month, the Warrior Health & Fitness team announced they would expand the program to provide services to the significant others of Veterans and Service Members. The announcement comes just over a year after the team restructured the program to support rolling admissions and a 90-day schedule. As the team looked to continue growing and improving the program, they were cognizant of the need to design the program in such a way that it would mitigate the number of dropouts. By restructuring the program’s schedule, they hoped to make it easier for Veterans and Service Members to get – and stay – involved. Expanding its services to the significant others of Veterans and Services was the natural next step, and the new headquarters provided the necessary space for expansion.

“There are many studies that show the importance of having a workout partner to help one reach their goals,” explained Vanderweit. “The challenge is finding that partner. With Warrior Health & Fitness, we remove that barrier. There’s a built-in community that helps Veterans stay motivated and focused on their goals. By including their significant others, we are further removing barriers and adding another layer of accountability for our participants.”

In addition to enabling the Warrior Health & Fitness team to broaden its reach, the new headquarters have provided a proper home for Nutrition Services at Home Base. Of all the features of the facility, the world-class kitchen overlooking the water on the second floor is one of the most admired.

Fresh produce from the Home Base garden

“We serve a diverse group of Veterans. Some Veterans have completed professional culinary training, while others have never prepared a meal in their lives. All have different nutrition knowledge coming in,” explained Home Base’s Manager of Clinical and Culinary Nutrition, Nicolette Maggiolo, RD, LDN. “Fortunately, this space welcomes and educates everyone – regardless of prior training or comfort level.”

The cooking demo kitchen has allowed Home Base to bridge a much-needed gap between traditional nutrition counseling and experience preparing healthful meals.  This space provides a hand-on approach to learning. This helps Veterans realize that healthful eating doesn’t have to be complicated.

“Cooking healthful meals together in this space becomes an empowering part of Veterans’ path towards healing,” said Nicolette.

While Home Base’s kitchen serves as an impressive stage for nutrition services, Nicolette and the rest of the Wellness team quickly realized there was still something missing from the new space: a garden.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of both time and resources from Don Cox and the Mass Military Support Foundation Inc, Home Depot, Michael Rego, and Matt Frechette from North Bennett Street School, Home Base was able to build a garden on the back patio of its new space.

Designed with patients in mind, the garden brought the Home Base team and volunteers together in service during the building process. In just a few short months, the garden has already contributed a great deal to life at Home Base. Home Base has harvested 11 types of herbs, as well as produce items such as carrots, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes. The herbs and vegetables harvested from the garden have been incorporated into Home Base’s nutrition program and more than 30 cooking demonstrations. More importantly, the garden has served as a therapeutic outlet for many Veterans, Service Members, and Families.

“It’s incredible to witness the meaningful impact this garden has had on our patients,” said Nicolette.

These baby rabbits were born in the Home Base garden!

For one graduate of Home Base’s two-week ICP for the invisible wounds of war, the garden was the first thing he noticed when he arrived for care. In a note he addressed to Nicolette, the Veteran mentioned how the garden had been an important part of his healing process.   

“As a Veteran going through the Home Base program, my experience has been meaningful and educational,” he wrote. “I have learned so many new skills I will use at home. For me, the garden has been calming, relaxing, as well as therapeutic. Gardening has given me a reconnection and a chance to be a part of something I help grow and thrive. I also feel more grounded when gardening. Thank you.”

Home Base’s headquarters was designed to be an epicenter of healing and hope for Veterans and their Families, as evidenced by the clear emphasis placed on health and wellness throughout the space. Participating Veterans, Service Members, and significant others can now receive fitness evaluations, exercise program education, nutrition counseling and educational cooking demonstrations, yoga, mental skills coaching and most importantly, create bonds with others through health and wellness activities – all within the walls of Home Base’s new facility.

“We have found that Veterans exposed to health and wellness activities at Home Base overwhelmingly report that they are helpful,” said Dr. Louisa Sylvia, PhD, Director of Health and Wellness at Home Base.