The Marines are ready to land in Royal Palm Beach, which is great news for area nonprofit organizations as squads of retired Marines and other veterans act as a free cavalry, showing up to provide manpower and skills, ready for hard work.
Unified Dream, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Royal Palm Beach, is made up of about 50 local veterans. Under the command of retired Marine Corps Sgt. Jake Hampu, Unified Dream partners with local organizations in need of help.
Their mission is that of serving organizations needing manpower, while providing disabled Marines with the therapeutic value of working hard alongside others on a detail of cooperation for mutual benefit. Helping other nonprofits and thereby helping themselves, they bring light where lives may have grown dark, lost in the shadows of time after active duty.
“We breed warriors, send them off to battle, bring them back, give them a DD 214 and handshake,” said Hampu, who explained that society too often writes these service men and women off and forgets them as they return, broken by war.
Hampu recounted heartbreaking stories of loss as he described that some veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are so underserved, sometimes so broken, that they have started to commit suicide at startling rates. “Vets come home, often disabled, and we are forgotten,” Hampu said.
He explained that the objective of Unified Dream is to provide veterans with a good mission, a sense of camaraderie, and the wonderous, therapeutic value of working together as a team to advance worthy causes.
Their service has been greatly appreciated in the 18 months since the organization began.
“Jake and the veterans are the real deal. This is almost too good to be true,” said Christina Nicodemou, executive director of the Delray Beach Children’s Garden.
The veterans have been deployed to the Children’s Garden at least monthly for a year.
“Jake and a squad teach carpentry skills to children,” Nicodemou said. “They have provided the love and labor to help us build a wide variety of things our organization needs. Our kids love working with the vets. Our carpentry classes building bird houses and such are always sold out, but I think the vets like working with the children even more.”
The way Unified Dream operates is that veterans can register with the program, state their skills and areas of interest, and the organization tries to match volunteer veteran laborers with organizations needing such skills. The outfit currently provides an impressive array of talent for local organizations. Free services to nonprofits include skill sets ranging from all around general labor to videography, carpentry, construction, copywriting and more.
The veterans who provide services to nonprofit locations are organized into squads.
Squad Leader Brian Cox is a Marine who, when he retired, came home and felt something missing.
“There was a spot inside of me that I was neglecting,” Cox said. “It has been extremely fulfilling to work with various organizations trying to help our communities. Volunteering with Unified Dream has given me the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from doing something my heart tells me I was meant to do.”
Laura Reiss is the executive director of the nonprofit organization Kindness Matters 365. She also works with the veterans from Unified Dream.
“One of the beautiful things about this organization is their commitment to shining a light on other local foundations and organizations that are giving back to our community, the people in it and ultimately the betterment of our world,” Reiss said. “They are professional, reliable and an absolute pleasure to work with. They are an inspiration to our foundation as a source of support and inspiration.”
Help Our Wounded Foundation Executive Director Sarah Crane remains deeply impressed by Hampu’s organization.
“Jake is the shining example of what leadership in veterans can look like. His mission of finding a sense of service beyond self has resonated with many veterans,” she said. “When I think of Jake and the work he’s doing with Unified Dream, I think, ‘Wow, here’s a guy who gets it.’ The level of service leadership Jake embodies isn’t something you see a lot of nowadays — it’s a very special core trait that is evident in every aspect of his operation.”
Hampu returned from his overseas service broken but not disabled. “I came back, got a great job as a sales engineer for a Fortune 500 company and was making great money, but something was missing,” he said.
Unified Dream was born in Hampu’s mind as he volunteered one day teaching inner city children how to swim. “Did you know more kids who can’t swim, drown in South Florida at a greater rate than at any other place in the country?” he said. “The kids were so excited to learn to swim that I decided to make a short film about it.”
An accomplished videographer, something clicked in Hampu as the swim students seemed to enjoy the video so much. He decided to follow his heart in a life of service to the community. So, he and other retired Marines formed Unified Dream to provide bored, broken, returning veterans with a sense of purpose and a lifeline.
“From a videography standpoint, Unified Dream has always been extremely professional — showing up on time and eager to capture any project,” Crane said. “I highly recommend that other nonprofit organizations explore using the services of these wonderful men and women who served our country and now wish to serve our communities.”
Retired Marine Dillon Harrell returned from war with a special place in his heart for helping veterans suffering from PTSD.
“Unified Dream helps me personally. I feel good when I give back to the community,” he said. “Plus, I can’t tell you how good it feels to see the smiles on the children’s faces as we teach them how to build stuff with their hands. A child’s grateful smile is the absolute best medicine in the world.”
Unified Dream helps other nonprofits through manpower and media. They are actively recruiting veterans who are looking for meaningful and therapeutic ways of serving the community. They are also actively teaming up with organizations who might need help in raising awareness, altruism and donations to help other nonprofits inspire the world.
“A sense of mission and purpose is instilled in our fighting men and women,” Hampu said. “By supporting our communities, we now as veterans, have a new mission of spreading peace.”
To learn more about the organization, visit www.unifieddream.org.