Honor Flight Kern County will be getting its own space for the first time since it was started in 2012.
The nonprofit organization, which flies military veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorials there, has been given free office space in a building being renovated by the Wounded Heroes Fund. That’s a big step up for an organization that operates out of a post office box and a storage unit.
“We’re so grateful to them for giving us the space,” said Honor Flight Executive Director Lili Marsh. “It’s going to be very helpful to have a space where we can easily interact with veterans.”
Marsh said veterans will be able to drop off and pick up applications, and people who want to serve as guardians for veterans coming east on one of the flights will be able to use the office to complete an interview and undergo training. Marsh said it will also be a good place to have staff meetings.
“It’s going to be wonderful. We can’t wait to get inside,” she said.
Marsh said not having an office has been challenging and sometimes confusing for veterans.
“It’s less than efficient, but we’ve survived,” she said. “It’s difficult for us to raise enough money for an office on our own because we want to make sure that everyone’s donations matter and are going to put somebody on the plane.”
Wounded Heroes Fund Executive Director Wendy Porter said the organization, which helps local veterans transition to daily life through various programs and events, has been involved with Honor Flight from the beginning.
“We try to send some of our vets to be guardians for the vets going on the Honor Fight,” she said. “We knew they were just operating out of post-office box, so we asked if they would be interested in having a spot in the building.”
The building, located at 3121 Standard St., will be the new base of operations for the Wounded Heroes Fund. It will house their offices and will also include a lounge, kitchen, kids' play room, a multipurpose room and space for the organization’s programs and classes.
“We wanted to have a building where we could have everything under one roof,” Porter said. “Currently, we only have a small office.”
The organization has been working on obtaining and renovating the old industrial building since around September, Porter said.
The Wounded Heroes Fund is raising money for the project, which is estimated to cost $250,000, by selling star and stripe spaces on a special flag made of metal and glass. So far, she said, they have raised around $80,000.
Porter said she’s excited about the new location and hopes veterans will be too.
“I think it’s going to be a great place for veterans to come and have so many things to do,” she said. “We will have the space to be able to add more programs and services in the future.”
Work on the building is estimated to be completed in June, Porter said.