HANFORD — Our Heroes Dreams, a local nonprofit organization of volunteers comprised of retired and former military personnel, will soon move from CEO/founder Justin Bond’s home to an office at the Hanford Amtrak Train Station.
Bond, an Army veteran, said he has been running the organization out of his house for the last five years, with anywhere from 6-12 veterans at his house at any given time using services. He said it’s time to give these veterans a proper place to spend their time and let his wife and kids have their home back.
Bond said the new office at the train station is the perfect place for the organization to expand and grow, especially because the organization offers almost 20 programs to veterans, including mentoring, mental health counseling and other services. He also thinks the train station is a place that is easily accessible for veterans traveling by themselves or with their families.
Bond said he wants to show that Hanford is a welcoming city and the office is a place where veterans can use computers, eat, play games, watch TV and generally rest or decompress when they need to. He wants to make the office a place where veterans know they can go and actually want to go.
He said it will also be easier to pick up veterans when Our Heroes Dreams has a function or event. Bond said he can also see the office working out deals with Amtrak to get free or discounted tickets to veterans.
Bond said he’s grateful to the city of Hanford for believing in the organization and giving them the opportunity to continue to serve not only veterans, but also the community by participating in community service projects. He said he considers this an opportunity to have a good partnership with the city.
Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle said the city has operated the train station building for a long time, and the offices were vacated when the Chamber of Commerce moved to the Old Courthouse building years ago. Although the offices were clean and available to rent, Pyle said no interest was generated for the space.
Pyle said Hanford Mayor David Ayers proposed the space be made available for veterans services, an idea the rest of council liked. Eventually it was unanimously agreed upon by the council that Our Heroes Dreams be able to rent the space for $1 a month, a deal that Bond was thankful for since any money the organization receives goes back to veterans.
Pyle said with several hundred thousand people going in and out of that station a year, it meets the needs of the veteran community and is also good for visitors of Hanford to see the building occupied. He said if the office helps the veterans' community, it will ultimately benefit the entire community and city of Hanford.
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“They served our country and now they’re serving our community,” Pyle said.
Navy veteran Emily Burnias, one of Our Heroes Dreams board members and the Women’s Warriors program manager, said the organization serves such an important role in the lives of local veterans and she thinks the new offices will only enhance its reach and help it achieve more goals.
After living a regimented life for years, many veterans don’t know what to do with themselves when their service is finished, Burnias said. She said the organization gives veterans a purpose and a place of comfort where they can be themselves and also get the services they need.
Burnias said veterans services are more than just medications; they are giving veterans a place to go where there are people who know what they have been through and understand that it’s OK to talk or to just want to be alone.
“This is to show veterans that we care here in Hanford,” Burnias said. “We need the county to be proud of veterans.”
Burnias gives a lot of credit to Bond, saying he truly cares and is the one who makes the programs happen by never giving up on helping fellow veterans. She said this move to the train station is just another example of Bond’s vision for his organization and the goals he wants to accomplish with and for veterans.
“[Our Heroes Dreams] means a lot to me as a veteran and as a female veteran,” Burnias said. "It saved my life.”
Bond received the keys to the office on Monday night and will be moving items in by the end of the week; he said the office should be open sometime next week. He said he sees more programs emerging in the future and he’s excited and can’t wait to keep helping veterans get the services they need.
“This definitely makes it seem much more like a real organization that’s saving people,” Bond said. “We’re taking it to the next level to help more vets.”