Vacant 6th Street building to become veterans’ ‘community center’
New tenants of a long-vacant Sixth Street building hope to breathe new life into the property by turning it into a veterans’ community center in the heart of downtown Bremerton.
Left Right Straight, a Bremerton-based nonprofit that seeks to foster a sense of community for veterans through outdoor activities, is moving into the former Seigler Sports building at 410 Sixth St.
The building, built in 1941, has been periodically occupied by charities since the bicycle shop closed a decade ago.
Left Right Straight co-founder Sean Delaire, who served in the Marine Corps from 2007 to 2011, said the organization had hoped to find a physical place to live since it was incorporated in 2015.
“We originally wanted one, but it was so over the top when we started that it was just kind of a shelved idea for when we were ready,” he said.
In the spring of 2016, a chance encounter with a local businessman put the organization on the path to becoming the new tenants of the former bike shop.
Delaire was invited to present his vision of Left Right Straight at one of the meetings of the Rotary Club of Bremerton. After giving his presentation, Delaire recalled being tapped on the shoulder by Orchard Foods CEO Peter Braun.
“He said, ‘Hey, I have a building, it’s a repairman, if you want it, you can use it,'” Delaire said.
Braun said he recognizes a partnership that would be a way to give back to the community, but also support a growing organization that served a significant demographic in Bremerton.
“I like to see things built and improved, saved, renovated, whatever they are, put to use,” Braun said. “For me, it’s seeing this building used for a good cause, and what has really been a community effort.”
Braun hosts the organization for free while it is set up.
“It’s huge. If we had to do renovations and pay for everything, it just wouldn’t be feasible for us right now,” Delaire said.
The headquarters will serve as a staging ground for the organization’s primary function of conducting guided “adventure expeditions” in a veteran-friendly setting.
“A lot of veterans come out, and they miss that camaraderie, they don’t have that community,” Delaire said. “They feel kind of lonely, and in doing these community-building expeditions and providing these services, a lot of people are like, ‘Man, I would never have gone out and hiked because I didn’t have anyone with me. who do it.'”
The organization’s name comes from a game that Delaire and a fellow Marine played whenever they went skateboarding on the Pacific Coast Highway in their spare time while stationed at Camp Pendleton in California in 2008.
“We would just choose a direction, left, right or straight, and then we would get lost,” Delaire said. “Usually I’d crumble and break my knee or something, but it was just getting out there and exploring and having a good time with your buddies.”
Through Guided Adventures, Left Right Straight seeks to bring that sense of camaraderie and freedom of exploration to other veterans looking for a way to relieve stress.
“The reason we do this is because through adventure therapy we find that getting outside, sweating, hiking, whatever it is, it clears your mind and focuses on the task at hand, instead of their mind wandering around and doing whatever it’s their brain telling them to do,” Delaire said. “It helps with anxiety. That being said, we are not doctors, but we just realize that it has helped us and it can help other people.”
For the past year and a half, Delaire and other Left Right Straight volunteers have spent hours cleaning the building to restore it.
“When we went to see space, I’m not going to lie, it was wreckage,” Delaire said.
Crews work to repair the roof and floor. Delaire hopes to enlist the help of community members willing to volunteer their time and skills for tasks such as rewiring the building and restoring the plumbing system.
Delaire hopes to open in the spring or summer of 2019. Once everything is up and running, Delaire hopes the Left Right Straight headquarters will become a “home away from home” for the veteran community.
“We want you to come in and hang out, be able to watch a movie, relax and have that veteran community,” Delaire said.
The building will have an open layout, with space for veterans to do their school or office work. It will store donated hiking gear. There will be a kitchen where visitors can heat up food and possibly allow the organization to host dinner parties on holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Delaire hopes a physical location for the organization will serve as a meeting point for the veteran community.
“The biggest benefit will be that it will give people a space to come and learn more about us, but also to continue to foster this community,” Delaire said. “Although we are all veterans, we still want to be very involved in the community. We make sure that almost everything we do benefits the community in some way.”