Life’s trials are refining fire for ‘Hearts of Steel’

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Meet Canyon Lake resident Brandon Harmison. Brandon is the owner of Serenity Haven, an assisted living home located just inside the East Gate.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brandon has had his share of tragedies; one being the murder of family members. On the morning of December 13, 1987, Brandon’s father shot his mother, grandmother and two aunts while the four women were preparing to go to church.

Brandon sells his Hearts of Steel garden stakes for $25, with $5 of each sale going to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

Brandon sells his Hearts of Steel garden stakes for $25, with $5 of each sale going to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

A8-PIC-2-blue-heartBrandon’s mother and aunt were killed instantly. The other aunt and his grandmother survived but were severely injured. As a result of the shooting, his grandmother is visually impaired and his aunt is a quadriplegic who is unable to communicate. Brandon was 23 months at the time his father committed the murders, and was the only one in the home that his father did not shoot.

Brandon’s father was convicted of the crimes he committed. He committed suicide about six months after being sentenced. Brandon says, “My father pled insanity and was sentenced to a mental hospital. He saved all his pills in the hospital and then took them all at once to kill himself. I don’t have many details about my father or the murders because my grandparents refuse to talk about it. It’s too painful for them to talk about.”

Brandon’s grandparents became his guardians after the incident. They raised him in Meadowbrook, which is just outside the North Gate. Brandon graduated from Temescal Canyon High School in 2004. He went on to college at Langston University in Oklahoma. “I didn’t like Oklahoma as much as I did California, so I came back,” says Brandon. Upon his return he worked as a mechanical engineer.

In 2008, tragedy struck again when Brandon was involved in a motorcycle accident. The accident left him a paraplegic. Brandon says, “I don’t remember much of the crash other than swerving to avoid a car coming at me.” Confined to a wheelchair and unable to care for himself, Brandon moved into Morning Mist, an assisted living home in Canyon Lake.

Brandon met his wife, Anne Agco, in 2009 while she was visiting a friend at Morning Mist. The two married on September 10, 2011. Anne, earned a bachelor’s degree in the Science of Nursing while living in the Philippines. In October 2015, Anne passed the Licensed Vocation Nurse (LVN) Examination. She plans to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for Registered Nurses in the near future.

While living at Morning Mist, Brandon contemplated his future and how he was going to make a living as a paraplegic. He decided the best thing for him was to open up his own assisted living facility. In May 2012, Brandon received his license to open an assisted living facility for individuals 55 years and older.

In September 2012, Brandon and Anne opened Serenity Haven. Serenity Haven, located near the East Gate, is licensed to accommodate six clients, which Brandon and Anne refer to as residents. The Harmisons employ a staff of three, two of whom provide 24-hour care to the residents who live at Serentiy Haven. Brandon and Anne also live onsite but in the small addition they had built onto the home.

In May 2014, Brandon received an associate’s degree in Behavioral Science from Mt. San Jacinto. In 2015 he received his Real Estate License. He plans on taking the Broker License Examination in the near future.

Due to his own life experiences, Brandon is on a mission to bring awareness to domestic violence. In an effort to do so, Brandon put his welding talents to use and started making steel yard and garden hearts earlier this year. “I stated Daphne’s Hearts of Steel as a way to honor my mother. I make hearts because I believe that love is the most important element in the universe,” says Brandon.

Brandon sells his steel hearts for $25. The hearts have metal butterflies welded onto them, and come in a variety of colors, including red, purple and blue. Brandon will illuminate the heart with rope lighting for an additional $11.

Brandon donates $5 from every heart sale to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. The organization is California’s recognized domestic violence coalition, representing over 1,000 advocates, organizations and allied groups throughout the state.

Several Canyon Lake residents have supported Brandon’s efforts by purchasing his hearts. As a result of the support and sales, Brandon was able to make his first donation to California Partnership to End Domestic Violence on November 23. He posted the receipt from the donation on his “Hearts of Steel” Facebook page, where he also posts photos of the hearts he makes and some of the residents who purchase them.

Brandon still has hopes that he will walk again and will no longer need his motorized wheelchair. He went for stem cell treatments in China in 2010 and stayed there for two months. He hopes he will be able to return to China for more treatments. Brandon and Anne’s dreams for the future are to open more assisted living facilities and a facility to help battered and abused women.

To inquire about Serenity Haven or to purchase one of Brandon’s hearts, please call 951-581-3724. Both Serventiy Haven and Daphne’s Hearts of Steel can be found on Facebook.

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Donna Ritchie