A place of comfort

Employees help nonprofit farm build a home base for veterans

Shelby Baecker volunteered his Friday to take part in a day of service at Ironstone Farm in Andover, Massachusetts.

He’s a veteran who lives a philosophy of service. He works at Raytheon Technologies, where he contributes to the company's culture of giving. 

So Baecker and a dozen members of an employee group that connects and supports veterans, got out their hammers and paint brushes for a day of service at Ironstone Farm. The mission: help build a retreat for veterans.

"We extend a hand, invite you in, pick up a hammer, give voluntarily of our resources - time, money, goods, services - to make a difference. And that is pretty cool," he said.

Baecker and his wife Jen - and their two toddler children, Gus and Maeve -  moved to Andover when he joined the company in 2019. As a retired Navy commander, Baecker served for 20 years. 

Home sweet home

The Ironstone farmhouse renovation provides veterans who have experienced trauma, and their families, a safe place to call home. The initiative supports patients, veterans and Gold Star families from company partner, Home Base, a national organization that treats veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The new, 12-bedroom house will help veterans in transition in the same town where Baecker works and lives.

The day of service was an opportunity for  leaders and employees to come together, replacing windows, repainting rooms, helping with landscaping and doing other work for the farm, which offers equine therapy to special needs kids and veterans. One-day retreats for individuals in recovery, using the effects of bonding with horses to help people discover their inner strength, are available.

“Our customers are the men and women defending our nation, and many of our employees are veterans or part of military families,” Sam Sullivan, vice president of communications for the employee group, said.

Raytheon Technologies, Home Base and Ironstone Farm provide opportunities and services for veterans who are healing from trauma and reintegrating into society.

Making a better life

Employees volunteer and raise funds for a wide range of events, often as part of two signature priorities: STEM education and military family and veteran support.

The synergy between Ironstone Farm and the company is encouraging, according to Deedee O’Brien, Ironstone Farm’s executive director. The farm, founded in 1960, expected to serve close to 300 veterans and families in the past year. 

“Everything we do is to help make someone’s life better,” O’Brien said.

Home Base held its annual summer Run to Home Base event. The event raised funds to support veterans and their families. The finish line crosses home plate at Boston’s historic ballpark and employees can sign up to run each year. 

Employees have volunteered and ran or walked the Run to Home Base race in Boston, which raises awareness and money to help veterans and families who suffer from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, depression or co-occurring substance abuse.