For this episode of Community Conversations we spoke with Al Alborn, a Board Member for veteran focused non-profit Serve Our Willing Warriors.
Q: How did you get involved with this organization?
A: Well, you can blame Larry Zilliox, whose one of the founders of Serve Our Willing Warriors and the Warrior Retreat – for getting me into this. I’m a fly fisherman, and Larry asked me if I could put together a fly fishing program for guests at the Warrior Retreat and I agreed. One thing led to another and a year later I was on the board.
Q: So, what does the organization do?
A: Well, Serve Our Willing Warriors is an overarching organization and they do a lot of things for wounded warriors, or veterans with mental or physical disabilities coming back from Afghanistan, Iraq – all of the adventures we have going on right now. Their model – their biggest project, the Warrior Retreat at Bull Run, which fulfills unique needs.
The Warrior Retreat at Bull Run treats warriors who are in unusually long programs of treatment – 12, 18, 24 months – that’s incredibly stressful on them and their family. What we do is work with Walter Reed and Belvoir to identify warriors that need a break. We let the warrior and their family and friends – as many people as they can stuff in a five-bedroom home on 34-acres out in Haymarket – for a week, and make sure they get a chance to reconnect. What we really do is we save families, because the stress is incredible – we save lives. Because it’s tough going through that much treatment.
Q: There doesn’t really seem to be anything else like this in our area.
A: Not that I know of. There are a lot of great programs – my other favorite is Project Healing Waters. I was a guide and instructor with them for a while – who take warriors out on road trips, take them places for fly fishing – bond, make new friends. But this 18 to 24-month treatment break, there may be others, but I’m, not familiar with them.
Q: So it does take money to operate this. And you had some grants that you received, built some new buildings, but you also need to be able to raise funds for other projects. So tell us a little about the projects you have coming up and what kind of fundraising opportunities that there is.
A: I’m glad you asked. We just renovated a really huge five-bedroom home out in Haymarket, thanks to the volunteer time, money, and in-kind donations of the community. And it turned out to be a pretty good success. So we’re planning on building three additional homes on the property. We’re planning the first one right now, we have a rather large grant coming in, and are raising money for the other two.
We have a number of events going on Sidney, probably the one that is coming up soonest is our fifth annual golf tournament at the Piedmont Golf Club. It’s scheduled for September 18, and we’re encouraging people to come and play singles or foursomes. We also have sponsorships available at all levels, for companies that want to give back to the wounded warriors and their family returning from these long engagements with mental and physical disabilities.
Q: You have this fundraising opportunity coming up. Is there any way that the public can help, even if it isn’t with the golf tournament? What can they do to help your organization or how can they volunteer?
A: That’s a really good question. If you go to our website, you’ll find a section for volunteering. We need obviously people for all phases of helping our warriors – people willing to give them in-kind services, like trips – like I take people fly fishing – they get helicopter rides, tours, all kinds of things. We obviously need money – we’re gonna need things like a kitchen or a living room for the new homes we’re building. And long term partners, corporate partners – you’ll find it all on our website and feel free to check it out and let us know if you’re interested.
Check back for the next episode of Community Conversations.