COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Helping others has always been a calling for Reverend Dr. Jean Keel, a retired U.S. Army veteran who served for twenty years, starting in Vietnam.

Keel retired from Martin Army Hospital in 1989 as a Sergeant First Class before starting the first homeless veterans’ transitional homes in Columbus, Ga. in 1991.

Over her many years of service both professional and within the community, Keel has been recognized by local, state, and federal leaders for her work advocating for the needs of veterans. Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) and Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) honored her with the Congressional Community Service Award in 1996. Keel was also ordained as a minister by the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 2003.

More recently, Keel was recognized by the Congressional Caucus in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 13, 2019 with the Veterans Braintrust Award. The honor was presented by Congressmen Bishop, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Anthony Brown (D-Md.).

Later that year, Keel was honored in November 2019 for the Atlanta Postal Credit Union for her work in the community and the establishment of the Tender Love and Care Farm, currently under construction in Lee County, Ala. near Salem, Ala. and Lakeview Estates on 348.

“God has given us places like the farms to help heal people and we just are looking bag picking up our brothers and sisters. That’s what we’re doing because we don’t wanna leave anyone behind,” Keel said.

For Keel, the project is meant to create a place where women veterans can go to heal and recover from trauma.

“To me, it means that it’s a place where our women are going to be able to come and be, like a retreat, holistic and therapeutic,” Keel said.

Ever humble, Keel said the Tender Love and Care Farm isn’t meant to make anyone famous or get recognition, but to help veterans find their way.

“We don’t look for fame, we’ve been around for 29 years. We’ve never really gone out to be recognized, we don’t take government funding but from the USDA,” Keel said.

The Tender Love and Care Farm works in partnership with the Tuskegee Department of Agriculture for Training and Mentorship, as well as with support from the Farm Service Agency and Conservation Program of the USDA.

The project is focused on helping the individuals most in need, rather than just teaching work skills.

“We’re just looking back, picking up our brothers and sisters, that’s what we’re doing,” Keel said. “We don’t want to leave anyone behind…and our women vets have been left behind.”

Keel says that of the 14 percent of the military that’s made up of women serving the country, 95 percent of those women are dealing with military sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and homelessness. For Keel, The Tender Love and Care Farm exists to ensure that none of those women are forgotten after what they sacrifice for their fellow Americans.

Once the farm is complete, it will work to train veterans on farming practices and how to be a part of the veterans farming programs of the USDA. Additionally, the farm will target women veterans who are experiencing PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma, and homelessness by working to transition them from homelessness to a marketplace initiative.

This transition will include a self-sustained Holistic Environment to provide a healing place for women veterans. In the long-term, the farming program also wants to build tiny houses for the women veterans in need of more permanent housing, and provide a healing site for wounded women veterans.

“I want the women vets to know that they have an alternative, that they can get help, and there are people that care about them,” Keel said.