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HANFORD — Setting a goal and reaching that goal is always a good feeling, but reaching that goal in half the time than was expected is even better.

“This is by far the best year we’ve had,” Jared Bailey, owner of Grocery Outlet in Hanford, said.

Every year in July, Grocery Outlet stores participate companywide in an event called Independence from Hunger, where they pick a local nonprofit and hold a food drive with all proceeds going toward that organization.

This year the Hanford Grocery Outlet, located 410 W. Seventh St., decided to work with Our Heroes Dreams, a nonprofit veteran-run organization created to help veterans, military personnel and their families in their time of need.

During the month-long drive, Grocery Outlet makes $5 food bags that customers can buy to be donated to Our Heroes Dreams.

Crystal Jaworski, manager at the store, said customers can also make $1 or $5 cash donations, with all the proceeds going to Our Heroes Dreams. After making a donation, customers get to spin a wheel and can win coupons or be entered to win a gift card.

Grocery Outlet had a goal of $5,000 for the month, which was already met by Monday.

“I thought $5,000 was attainable, but not halfway through the month,” Bailey said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Walk into the Our Heroes Dreams office inside the Amtrak station at 200 Santa Fe Ave., and you’ll find a back room piled with food boxes and cans.

Justin Bond, founder of Our Heroes Dreams, said the organization does food drops for veterans, first responders and peace officers all over the Valley who may just need a little extra help every now and then.

Bond said he expected to reach about $4,000 by the end of the month and was blown away as the updates came in.

“With the community and Grocery Outlet coming together, it just makes a great team,” Bond said. “This community is an awesome community.”

Bond said the community may not always see what’s going on because military people are very prideful and don’t always ask for help, but spouses and family members often reach out to the organization for help.

Bailey contributes a lot of the success of the drive to Our Heroes Dreams.

“Helping vets was something we wanted to do, especially with the military presence around here,” Bailey said. “These guys have been awesome as far as promoting and getting the word out there.”

Jaworski said it’s amazing to see the community come together to help a great organization.

“It’s just an all-around good feeling,” Jaworski said. “We couldn’t do it without the help of the community.”

She said it’s even better that the station is right across the street from Grocery Outlet, so she gets to see volunteers opening bags and watching the piles grow.

Almost 600 bags have already been donated and Bond said about 20 families have been helped in the last two weeks.

The drive has been so successful, with an average of 30 bags a day donated, that Grocery Outlet has decided to bump its goal up to $7,000 for the month; something they never imagined they would have to do only halfway through the drive.

Jaworski said to reach this goal, only about $130 a day is needed in donations.

“We still need to community to keep coming out and keep giving and keep being a part of this,” Jaworski said.

Bailey said the drive has grown every year and showcases how willing the community is to step up and give back.

He said food insecurity is a big problem, especially during summertime when kids are home from school and families are struggling to have enough food for every meal.

“We’re in America, people shouldn’t be struggling to eat,” Bailey said. “There’s more than enough to go around.”

Bond’s only problem now is figuring out where to put all the food; he’s guessing there’s already about 15 pallets of food.

To celebrate the successful drive, Grocery Outlet has decided to set up in its parking lot on July 26 and hold a community event with hot dogs and drinks. Veterans and first responders can eat for free and all others can pay $1.

“We just want to say thank you to all our first responders, our vets and our active military,” Jaworski said.

Jaworski said there will also be raffle prizes, with all the money going back to Our Heroes Dreams.

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News Reporter

News reporter for The Sentinel

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