BALTIMORE -- Navy Veteran Eryck Stamper still struggles.
"I suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression and some physical ailments," he says. "Always trying to find my place, looking for where I belong."
That search brought him to a Carroll County farm, where he found comfort somewhere unexpected.
"I hear those bees as I'm coming. I know they're waiting for me," he says. "They're gonna take care of me just like I'm gonna take care of them."
Mission Beelieve provides beekeeping education for local veterans and first responders. They learn new skills in a therapeutic way.
"When you come out here and you're watching these bees form to this amazing thriving hive, you're watching growth and success," Stamper says. "And I think that's what Mission Beelieve does with us. It helps us grow and become successful. "
Mother-son team Monica Schmitt and Tristan Bannon lead Mission Beelieve.
"Honeybees have really changed my life. And they're changing others. I see it every day," Schmitt says. "The bees have this really nice soft hum. And they have that soothing - the beeswax, the honey, the smell. It's very calming. It's very relaxing."
The program offers a virtual beginner course, with instruction from influential entomologists and beekeepers. There is also a hands-on experience, inspecting hives in the teaching apiary.
"If you're distracted, if you're focused on other problems in your life, those bees know you're distracted. Suddenly the sound changes. And the bees quickly remind you your focus needs to be here with us," she says. "That's what a lot of people need. Sometimes just to slow down and listen around you."
You can buy their award-winning honey, and all the proceeds benefit the organization. Right now, Mission Beelieve is raising money to build a therapeutic bee house. It will have special hives with no heavy lifting involved, to accommodate those who can't stand or have missing limbs.
"We wanted to create something that was here all the time for them. And that we're just a phone call away," Schmitt says. "We all need our purpose. And these guys and women, men and women, need their purpose, too. And that's what this program does. It helps them re-purpose their negative energy into something positive through beekeeping."
That purpose and meaning saved Stamper.
"My first year here at mission believe, when I was getting stung every now and then in the process, I coined the term 'hands in the hive helped me stay alive.'"
And a few times a month, he makes the one-hour drive from Baltimore to be here.
"Really to me, this is a family. This isn't a non-profit," Stamper says. "They've taken me in and made me a part of who they are."
For information about the organization, visit its website.
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