Hammers on the farm with Growing Veterans

By: Brandon Enyeart
06/03/2013 7:53 PM -
There are so many great things about the sport of soccer, but perhaps one of the best parts of the sport is how it can bring a community together.  After weekends upon weekends of the community showing up to cheer on Bellingham United FC, this Saturday, the Hammers got a chance to give a little back by visiting the Growing Veterans farm in Lynden, WA.
Growing Veterans – which is a project of Growing Washington  – was created in hopes of providing a healthy transition opportunity for returning military veterans to change the way communities think about food. Led by post 9/11 Vets, the program offers employment, internships and professional development opportunities for returning vets.
In the words of Director of Growing Veterans, Christopher Brown
“The reason why we do this is because Veterans as a population; we have higher rates of unemployment and suicide, homelessness, divorce…all that. We believe that most of those things stem from Vets being isolated, whether it’s from the guys they served with or from their family, their friends or the community as a whole. For Vets with PTSD, one of the symptoms is isolation; we tend to isolate ourselves from other people and kind of a protective measure. We’re trying to get Vets out here, we’re trying to get the community out here, so Vets can see that they can give back to the community still and that they can be a part of something bigger again. ”

Brown also went on to say
“It’s very nice (to have Bellingham United FC) helping out today, as you can tell, we were running the risk of losing some of our crops, because of the weeds. The weeds got a little unruly, especially over Memorial Day weekend, since some of us were gone.  Having the team out to help with the weeding is probably going to save a lot of our crops. It’s great to have groups from the community out here to see what we’re doing and work with Veterans.”
Amongst the Hammers helping out were players like Matthew Zigulis, Keith Ferris, Brendan Quilici, and Nick Saletto. As well as Assistant General Manager, Robert Riese, Business Operations Manager, Jim Massoni and the Hammers’ most vocal fan, “Hooligan Ron”.  The group shoveled compost and weeded crops as instructed by field manager, Kris Wolf who managed the farm before Growing Veterans was organized. When asked about what Growing Veterans means to her, Wolf replied “It feels really good to be a part of growing healthy, organic food that is sold locally for people to eat. I know that we’re increasing people’s health by making it available for them. I also just love working with the Vets and creating this community here; getting to know each other, support each other and helping them figure out how to start life again after they return home”
Even the occasional shower throughout the early afternoon didn’t stop everyone from pitching in to help a great cause.  If one could judge a day by the smiles on a group of faces, it wouldn’t take long to see that today was more than just a day at the farm, it was a day that those involved will remember for a long time.
Growing Veterans is a project of the 501©3 non-profit organization, Growing Washington.
Growing Washington strives to continuously enrich and improve the lives of all Washingtonians by empowering communities to work together toward mutual goals and by strengthening the sense of connectedness between individuals and between diverse groups. 

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