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Airmen help local school rebuild greenhouse

VALPARAISO, Fla. -- Volunteers lift one end of a greenhouse into place at an elementary school here.  About 15 Airmen from nearby Eglin Air Force Base and Duke Field volunteered to help rebuild the school's greenhouse which was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kristen D. Duncan)

VALPARAISO, Fla. -- Volunteers lift one end of a greenhouse into place at an elementary school here. About 15 Airmen from nearby Eglin Air Force Base and Duke Field volunteered to help rebuild the school's greenhouse which was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kristen D. Duncan)

VALPARAISO, Fla. -- Airmen 1st Class Brian Wiechec (left) and Daniel Springer connect two sides of a greenhouse frame at an elementary school here.  Hurricane Ivan destroyed the school's greenhouse in September.  More than 15 Airmen from nearby Elgin Air Force Base and Duke Field helped build a replacement.  Airmen Wiechec and Springer are assigned to the 716th Maintenance Squadron at Duke.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kristen D. Duncan)

VALPARAISO, Fla. -- Airmen 1st Class Brian Wiechec (left) and Daniel Springer connect two sides of a greenhouse frame at an elementary school here. Hurricane Ivan destroyed the school's greenhouse in September. More than 15 Airmen from nearby Elgin Air Force Base and Duke Field helped build a replacement. Airmen Wiechec and Springer are assigned to the 716th Maintenance Squadron at Duke. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kristen D. Duncan)

VALPARAISO, Fla. -- Tech. Sgt. Robert Martorelli (left) and Bryan Gartner insert bolts and hinges into one of the window frames of a greenhouse being built at an elementary school here.  Hurricane Ivan destroyed the school's greenhouse in September.  More than 15 Airmen from nearby Elgin Air Force Base and Duke Field helped build a replacement.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kristen D. Duncan)

VALPARAISO, Fla. -- Tech. Sgt. Robert Martorelli (left) and Bryan Gartner insert bolts and hinges into one of the window frames of a greenhouse being built at an elementary school here. Hurricane Ivan destroyed the school's greenhouse in September. More than 15 Airmen from nearby Elgin Air Force Base and Duke Field helped build a replacement. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kristen D. Duncan)

VALPARAISO, Fla. -- The new greenhouse is part of the "Garden Spot" at an elementary school here.  Hurricane Ivan destroyed the school's greenhouse in September.  More than 15 Airmen from nearby Elgin Air Force Base and Duke Field helped build a replacement.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kristen D. Duncan)

VALPARAISO, Fla. -- The new greenhouse is part of the "Garden Spot" at an elementary school here. Hurricane Ivan destroyed the school's greenhouse in September. More than 15 Airmen from nearby Elgin Air Force Base and Duke Field helped build a replacement. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kristen D. Duncan)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- Hurricane Ivan destroyed a nearby elementary school’s greenhouse in September, and the school has been without one ever since. So, the school’s principal Dr. Van Crigger, asked Airmen here for help.

About 15 Airmen from here and nearby Duke Field volunteered to help.

The school’s “Mustang Metropolis” is a small ‘city’ for the children to learn real-life lessons, including banking, civic leadership, running a small business and even paying taxes.

The greenhouse is an extension to “The Garden Spot,” a shop where children can grow and purchase flowers and plants for their families.

“The greenhouse is an integral part of our city,” Dr. Crigger said. “The Garden Spot is a very popular shop because kids love to bring things home to mama.”

The greenhouse was first built about eight years ago as an addition to the city, which was established 10 years ago.

Students run the city by having annual elections for city council and mayor; they apply for jobs within the city and even have to get a loan from the bank to open new businesses.

“Core character traits are exhibited here -- the students are even given speeding tickets by the police department if they’re caught running,” he said.

“When the school called and mentioned they needed help building their greenhouse from the one destroyed by Ivan, I was more than happy to help out,” said 1st Lt. Kristy Rasmussen, 46th Test Wing executive officer. “There is no better way to show our support than to ... give back when we can.”

The greenhouse hopefully will make it through this hurricane season, but if not, the Airmen said they will be back next year building another one.

“We’re having fun and happy to do it,” said Donna Montoya, a civilian employee with the Joint Direct Attack Munition office.

“I felt as though building the greenhouse for the elementary school was my way of giving them part of their education (biology),” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Martorelli of the 716th Maintenance Squadron’s quality assurance office at Duke Field.

“Understanding the world around us, how it grows and benefits us, is a huge part of everyday life, and by being able to grow with part of nature helps everyone to understand it,” he said. “These children are our future. We need to teach them the best we can.”

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