Local organizations that honor and support those who fought for our freedoms
By Taylor Shillam
As we rejoice Independence Day, many will take extra care to recognize our veterans, those who fought for our independence and the freedoms we celebrate. This month, we can show our support alongside the local organizations dedicated to preserving our veterans’ connections to the community and overall quality of life.
Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation
Dedicated to providing hope and healing to those who served in the military, Gig Harbor’s Permission to Start Dreaming (PTSD) Foundation focuses on enhancing the mind, body and spirits of veterans and their families. Serving veterans and first responders throughout the Pacific Northwest, they strive to provide effective, long-term solutions for growth and overcoming post-traumatic stress.
Born out of Leslie Mayne’s grief from losing her son Kyle to an overdose following treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress, the organization serves to honor Kyle’s memory and service as an army veteran. The foundation seeks better outcomes for veterans of today and the future through bringing hope, peace and healing from the past.
“We believe they should be provided the very best programs that help restore their lives and overcome the trauma they face while serving their country and communities,” the organization states. They offer strength-based programs including post-traumatic growth workshops and retreat, designed to help every veteran, first responder and family member live a fulfilled life.
The Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation holds monthly meetings to provide an inclusive environment that fosters connection through sharing of experiences and working through trauma. The facilitated huddles are designed to cultivate a positive growth mindset while building community. They meet for an informal dinner on the last Wednesday every month in Gig Harbor, with plans to expand and reach more locations.
They offer several annual events, including Race for a Soldier, and Pull for a Soldier, a competitive trap shoot event in partnership with the Gig Harbor Sportsman Club. Community members interested in signing up to run, compete, or volunteer with the organization can visit PTSDFoundation.org.
“A place for growing food, community, and each other,” the Growing Veterans Nonprofit Farm was established in 2012 and seeks to break down the feeling of isolation experienced by so many veterans.
Founded by a combat-wounded USMC veteran and mental health counselor turned farmer, Growing Veterans uses organic farming as a catalyst for making an impact on the health of veterans around the region and around the world. Their holistic approach is grounded in camaraderie, authentic connections and enhancing mental health through time in nature.
The food growth comes from an organic farm located in Lynden, Washington, and an outpost farm on Greenback Whidbey Island, hosting volunteers three days a week and donating a majority of the food grown to the Bellingham Food Bank and North Whidbey Help House. Their organic hops, peppers, summer vegetables and more can be sold at wholesale prices for other businesses, garnering further support for their mission.
Volunteers on the farm receive “Dirt Therapy,” based on the belief that feeling soil on your hands while hearing a friendly voice delivers a positive experience. The farms also deliver Peer Support Training to staff members and interns, where they are taught how to be a support system to the veterans they serve.
The organization’s community growth occurs through building connections for veterans. Working in partnership with other local businesses, groups and individuals throughout the region, Growing Veterans seeks to strengthen the bridge between veteran and civilian communities with outreach events, farm tours, collaborations and volunteer days.
Growing Veterans takes pride in the variety of veterans and civilians alike who come together on the farm, “to simply be with one another, share stories, laugh, and interact in a way that is centered on growing things with our hands rather than destroying.”
To get connected or get involved, visit GrowingVeterans.org.
Located in Renton, the VFW Post 1263 is a center for military and veteran outreach that supports service members from active duty, through discharge and after their return.
They welcome both veterans and active service members to take part in their programs, available resources and veteran outreach, especially aiming to provide continued support and community for veterans suffering from PTSD.
“There has never been a more important time to take a stand and do something to support our veterans,” the organization states in their mission to fight against the number of veterans lost to suicide.
Part of their veteran outreach program includes their “Buddy-Buddy” program, connecting veterans through shared trauma and encouraging private, yet open, discussions to talk through their experiences.
The VFW 1263 offers a long list of benefits and services for veterans, including health-care benefits, long-term care, and family support. Because their ultimate goal is to keep veterans from feeling alone and to help those who are struggling, the VFW maintains a veteran crisis hotline available through phone, text and online chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net. More information on Post 1263 and its resources can be found at VFW1263.org.
Many of the veterans who have fought for our freedoms don’t stop fighting after they return home. The organizations that honor and serve our veterans recognize the weight of their service and aim to give back through values rooted in community and inclusion.
On this month’s holiday and beyond, veterans can be celebrated through these local organizations offering opportunities and support for those who sacrificed so much in the fight for our country’s freedom.