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Brewing Support for K9s For Warriors! - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Brewing Support for K9s For Warriors! - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
May 3, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Chelsea Oesch, Kiersan Cue, Joe Moreno and Bill Lins, sponsored Beacon and TRI-BUILT. You can read the interview below, listen to the podcast or watch the episode.

Heidi Ellsworth: Hello, and welcome to Coffee Conversations from RoofersCoffeeShop. My name is Heidi Ellsworth and I am here today with such a special Coffee Conversations. We are going to be talking about K9s for Warriors. This is a very special presentation and group and during the month of May when we are celebrating mental health and really having those strong conversations that make such a difference.

So we are so looking forward to today's conversation, but let's start with some housekeeping. First of all, this is being recorded and it will be available within 24 hours. Please feel free to share that with your fellow professionals, friends, family, especially this Coffee Conversation. This is something everyone's going to want to see. We will also be taking questions and chats, comments. As you know, we want you to be part of the conversation, so be sure to, the chat is open, say hello, tell us where you're from and who you are.

And then a very, very special thank you to Beacon and TRI-BUILT for sponsoring this Coffee Conversations. Their idea, they're going to share some information about this special nonprofit that is going to get you all ready to go. So let's get started today.

I would like to introduce our panel and starting out with some conversations. I have met Chelsea many years ago and have been so impressed with her and what she's done with Beacon and throughout her career. But more than anything, she has brought some of the most special K9s for Warriors to the roofing industry. So Chelsea, welcome to Coffee Conversations.

Chelsea Oesch: Thank you all for having me, and we cannot wait to share more about our partnership with K9 for Warriors. I have been with the Beacon family of companies for quite some time now, but I am currently our marketing director for private label and part of that was rebranding TRI-BUILT and bringing Blue, our mascot, into the TRI-BUILT brand, which has then created all these unique partnerships that we have today and especially this one with K9 for Warriors. So I am so happy to have you all here today, and I can't wait for you to hear from our other panelists.\

Heidi Ellsworth: Thank you, Chelsea. I have to tell you, you, brilliant marketing, but it comes from your heart, which is why it's so brilliant. And thank you for everything you do. Also, I just want to say thank you again for being a sponsor of this Coffee Conversations and bringing it to the forefront. And with that, I am so excited to introduce Kiersan Cue, who is with K9s for Warriors. Kiersan, welcome to the show.

Kiersan Cue: Thank you, Heidi. I'm super excited to be representing K9s for Warriors, along with Joe and Bill today, and just sharing a little bit more about our mission and how we've worked so closely with Beacon. Thank you for having us.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love it. Can you introduce yourself? Tell us just a little bit about yourself, what you do and maybe a little bit more about K9s for Warriors.

Kiersan Cue: Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Kiersan. I work at K9s for Warriors as a development manager, working really closely with a variety of our corporate partners in addition to planning our organization's signature events. So those are events that we host as K9s for Warriors. K9s is a very special organization. We support our veterans and we also support rescuing dogs to turn them into service dogs. We are growing crazy over the past couple of years, and we're just excited to keep spreading our mission and helping more veterans and also saving more dogs.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. This is going to be so much fun to hear how this all works and what's happening. And I am honored to also introduce Bill Lins and Joe Moreno to the show, who are both veterans. I'm going to have you introduce yourselves and your dogs about [inaudible 00:04:23]. So Joe, let's start with you. Introduction, and we'd love to hear your story.

Joe Moreno: Sure. Thank you, Heidi. So my name is Joe. As you can see, Bill and I actually went through the K9s program together back in August of 2022. A little bit about myself, so I'm born and raised in California. I joined the Navy in 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks. I served up until March of 2015, and during that time, I got to spend an all expenses paid vacation in Iraq, so that was beautiful.

But as a result of that, once I got home, I started to realize that things weren't like they were before. Things like being quick to anger, anxiety, hypervigilance when I would go out in public and gradually it just built up over time. So as a result of that, once I got out in 2015, I decided to go to the VA and started asking some questions. Once I did that, I realized that the standard of care through the VA had a lot to do with medication and that wasn't really where I wanted to land for myself personally. So what I noticed for me was although I was treating one set of symptoms, it was bringing up another set of symptoms for me.

So that's what brought me to K9s for Warriors. I knew I didn't want to do that forever, so I looked at alternatives and I found K9s for Warriors and I was really just intrigued at what a dog could do for a veteran. They had a great social media, the YouTube channel and Instagram and all the others and through that I was really just intrigued that a dog could really do that for a veteran who was in the same position as myself. Up until that point, nothing had really worked. It put a bandaid on the problem temporarily, but nothing was really fixing any of those problems. I was still isolating myself at home, just having trouble in social settings. Going to work was a problem. I really just was struggling, and I knew I needed something and medication wasn't going to be the solution for myself.

So I applied to K9s, and unfortunately, COVID kind of coincided with that process. So it did take a little bit of time to get in, but once I got there in August, I was paired with that handsome guy there in the pictures. His name is Eagle. He's a highly energetic goofball of a dog. We couldn't have been a better match. So he's a Flat-Coated Retriever and he just celebrated his third birthday last month. Since then, we've traveled almost 40,000 flight miles with him. He's quite the traveler. So he's really changed my life. Those 40,000 miles, I hadn't traveled at all prior to getting Eagle, in at least 10 years. So in the last two years [inaudible 00:07:43] for both just pleasure and also with K9s for Warriors and doing events to try to help other veterans.

So he's really been a game changer. He loves to spend his time in the mountains or at the beach. And really the thing with a dog is they don't judge you and they don't really care. So no matter what kind of day-

Heidi Ellsworth: They just love you.

Joe Moreno: Yeah. He just wants to hang out by my side and be my adventure partner. He does this thing when we're walking where he'll poke my leg with his nose just to check in. It's his way of checking in and saying, "Hey, I'm here. We're good."

So what Eagle's really allowed me to do, long story short, is he's allowed me to go back into the world and be present, whereas before, it was a struggle to be out in the world to begin with, and when I was, I wasn't really there. I was very caught up and very anxious and uncomfortable every time I left the house. So Eagle has really allowed me to get back in the world on my terms now and just be present. So actually be present and be able to go places and not have really high levels of anxiety and just really uncomfortable.

Heidi Ellsworth: That's amazing, Joe. It's so amazing. Bill, same thing. Can you introduce yourself? Tell us about Link. Tell us about your journey.

Bill Lins: Yeah. I'm Bill Lins. I am a, or I was in the Marine Corps for 12 years. I served all throughout the infantry during my time, with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm trying to prompt Link to get up, but he's being really lazy in his bed right now. Oh no, he's blurred out, but that was Link. He's very content in his bed and blankets right now.

And similar to Joe, I waited a really long time before I went and got treatment. After serving in Iraq in 2006, I realized something was off and I tried to see a psychologist and in my very first meeting they told me how they could understand my combat experience based on a car accident that they were in. And that didn't sit well with me, so I didn't go in for another appointment for almost 10 years. When I finally did go in, I was a very broken person. I had just been separated from the Marine Corps, which was not my intention. I wanted to stay for my 20 years, but I had too many injuries, too many surgeries and I was struggling just to do the day-to-day activities.

My ex-wife had left me at this point in time. She had taken my kids with her. So all of the things that were important in my world were gone. I wasn't around my friend group or the people that I could lean on. I wasn't in the career where I had been recently. I didn't have my kids, and I was alone. And it is amazing how the more people that are around you, the more alone you can feel, because my social circle didn't all give up on me, but when they got close, it just made me feel awkward, made me see the differences, made me want to withdraw and avoid things even more. So I started cutting ties with people or doing things that would push people away so they would stop and just kind of forget about me.

As Joe said, the VA is very medication forward, which I was all about when I first went in. I was looking for a magic pill that was going to fix me, and this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but there isn't one. So what happens is you just start taking more and more and every side effect that you have and everything that's negative about the medications, they just give you something else to fix that.

I remember I was on a vacation with my family and my aunt had just had a kidney transplant, and our medicine containers sat next to each other on the kitchen counter and she was blown away at me having probably four times the amount of pills that she had. And they were doing nothing. I couldn't figure out why they would do nothing. But as time went on, I realized I had to actually do the work and not just try and take the easy way out.

In the place where I was, where I was going to the VA, taking medication that wasn't working, couldn't do the talk therapy piece because I couldn't talk about things. I didn't have my kids, I didn't have my friends, I didn't have my career. I had no identity. I was very lost and just beat up, worn out and I was ready to quit. I went into the VA and was subtly kind of saying goodbye to people and making my way out when I ran into a guy that had been in a group with me for a year, and we had become kind of close, we were in similar places in deployments and we had similar physical injuries and things like that, and he had his service animal with him. Up until that point, I don't ever think I had even realized that was an option. I didn't think that was something that was on the table.

And he was so different just with walking around with his dog. I didn't know what it was, I didn't know why it was working, but I knew that I wanted that and it gave me just a little glimmer of hope kind of at the end of the tunnel, something to keep on working for. I got a recommendation. I went through this vetting process with a person who would train your pet to be a service animal. They took all of the money and I never heard from them again. So I was really, really down at that point. It is a really hard place where you feel like, like I said, everybody that's around you, you just feel more and more alone.

And the most important thing in the world to me was being a good father. I had three kids that I wasn't allowed to be with. I had to have supervision when I went to see them, someone had to babysit me and that felt really bad. And I also had lost the ability to really feel emotions because I was so numbed out, and because of that, I logically knew that I loved my children, but I couldn't feel it and I felt like that was something that was just fundamentally broken and wrong with me, and it was really hard to try and reconcile not feeling love for your children.

This was all taking place and things were aligning for me to just try and fade off into the sunset. And someone called from K9s for Warriors. And I didn't even remember putting the application in. I didn't remember doing anything on their website. It must've just been something that happened in my trying to do research. And they basically said, "Hey, we've got you. It's going to be a while. Start doing your stuff so you're ready, and we'll be here for you along the way."

The really remarkable thing is for about the five years it took me to get to Florida to be trained with the dog, they checked in, they called, they emailed and if you didn't answer, it was like a crazy ex or something, they would blow your phone up to check on you and not just let you hang out to dry. They wouldn't let you avoid them, which was probably really annoying at the time. But I also think it was something that kind of kept me hopeful. It kept that goal on my radar. And I at one point did start to be able to do the work, and when they called for me to come down there, I said that I wasn't going to fly because I've had two very rough landings in helicopters that were not super fun. So I like to stay on the ground.

And probably every single mile of the drive from Maryland to Florida, I thought of another reason why I should turn around and not go. As soon as I showed up there, that changed. I think for the first week I got a little bit of a ridicule because I was so quiet and just very much to myself, but by the end I don't think I shut up and I was paling around with people and I had my buddy Link at my side.

And he doesn't let me out of his sight ever. I think in the last almost two years I've done two events where he couldn't be because of the number of people and things like that, and I don't take him to soccer games that I play in because there's nowhere for him. So maybe 20 times in the last two years that he hasn't been by my side. And like Joe said, the dogs pick up on these little things that you need and sometimes they just nudge you. They swat you with their paw, they come up and lick you. They do something to just say like, "Hey buddy, I'm here." And it's very similar to a friend reaching out and saying, "Hey, how's it going?" Or something like that.

And to have that around all day long, every single day is a really remarkable thing. You can do all of the therapy in the world, but none of it is 24 hours a day. None of it is seven days a week. And that's what these dogs offer.

Heidi Ellsworth: That, Bill, I warned people get their tissues because I think I'm a little teary right now myself. That is just an amazing journey and story. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I want to take it back, so Kiersan, I would love for you to talk a little bit, now that we've heard these two stories that's so incredible, but just give us the big picture, overview, mission, vision, the history of how K9s for Warriors started.

Kiersan Cue: Yeah, absolutely. So K9s for Warriors, our mission is to end veteran suicide by providing highly trained service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma. The majority of our dogs are rescues. So our program is really innovative in the fact that our warriors are building a bond that heals both the warrior and the dog and it's a journey of recovery for both of them.

So our overall vision, roughly 20 veterans die by suicide every single day, and we are beyond determined to change that. We have a fierce dedication to saving both veterans and rescue dogs, and our work is nowhere near done. We will not stop until 20 a day becomes zero a day. So we really are focused on both ends. We call it saving lives at both ends of the leash. So we're really focused on both ends of the leash and rescuing those dogs and rescuing our veterans as well and providing them a new life.

In this picture, I just also wanted to point out in the top left-hand corner that is one of our warriors, Anthony, and his dog Mando. They graduated last August, and Mando was actually sponsored by the Washington Commanders, the football team, but they have an Instagram similar to Joe and Eagle where they just share all of their journeys and everything that they go through together. And that's just a really powerful story. If you're ever interested in looking up Mando, he's a very chunky black lab. But each of these dogs in these pictures have gone through our training program and are either already paired with their warriors or getting ready to be. So yeah, but we-

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, and we are sharing these pictures as we go just because they're so heartfelt. And so there may be a few of you out there who are like, how does this relate to roofing? Well, that's where TRI-BUILT and Chelsea and Beacon come in, where they saw the need and what we all know is how much the roofing community loves to give back and to find these amazing initiatives that are doing, I just love what you said, Kiersan, to zero. Zero every day, that's the goal. And so Chelsea, can you give us your story about how Beacon and TRI-BUILT got involved with the K9 for Warriors and where you're at. Take us through that journey.

Chelsea Oesch: Sure. Thank you, Heidi. As I mentioned earlier, we went through this rebrand. We added a dog into our logo, which seems really simple, but we knew that we could connect on multiple different levels with contractors, with our communities, by adding this really strong dog figure to remember our brand by and that really opened up the doors to creating this unique partnership with K9 for Warriors.

The reason why we were really aligned with K9 for Warriors is very much so the rescue aspect. They are a different type of organization, where a lot of other organizations, they're taking a puppy and a breeder dog and creating a service dog out of it. Where we were really touched by the saving two lives aspect of it. Me personally, I have four rescues of my own, and so that was a personal passion for me and being able to see your own personal passion fulfilled through an organization at work was just a really full circle, amazing moment.

K9 for Warriors also really aligns with the fact of supporting our veterans. That is one of our pillars with Beacon. We have Beacon of Hope, which gives roofs to veterans in need. And so this was just another arm to supporting our veteran community because they give so much for our country and it's really the least that we can do, is support them when they get back home.

As far as our partnership with K9s for Warriors, we met the organization in 2022 and we sponsored one warrior pair. And as you'll find, you can't get enough. We sponsored the one in 2022, and we just knew we had to do more. After speaking with veterans like Joe and Bill, we could see the immediate impact that these dogs were having on these veterans' lives, and we could not stop at just saving that initial two lives.

So in 2023, we grew our partnership to two warrior pairs. And then, I don't know if you want me to go ahead and share what we have committed to in 2024. So in 2024, at our Beacon Leadership Summit, we partnered with 12 of our TRI-BUILT vendor partners to support us alongside giving more back to K9 for Warriors. So those 12 vendor partners committed to dogs, along with our original commitment and we were able to give a $400,000 donation to K9 for Warriors, which equates to, it was 16 warrior pairs, saving 32 lives.

So we are just so excited to see that our vendor partners are aligned with us. They have the same core values. And when we asked for them to partner, it was an immediate yes. And in fact, some of our vendor partners are now further connected with K9 for Warriors and they are doing more with K9 for Warriors. So it's been really cool to see this partnership grow from the one warrior pair in just 2022 to what we're able to accomplish in 2024.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is so amazing, Chelsea. I mean, to bring all the partners together to really come together to 16, 32 lives. I am just so ... So Kiersan, and Joe and Bill too, but I'll start with you, Kiersan, how important is it to have these type of companies like Beacon and TRI-BUILT, who not only are bringing themselves, but now they're bringing other people from the industry, other manufacturers, other vendors to really be a part of K9s for Warriors?

Kiersan Cue: It is essential to our organization. We could not do it without the support of companies like Beacon, the support of individuals. Obviously we are a nonprofit organization, so everything that we do is fundraised by our employees. So whether that's working with a corporate brand to bring our mission to them and coincide with their company alignment and brand, to working with individuals who are just very passionate about veterans and rescue dogs, these relationships really change the game for our organization because it allows us to pair more warriors and more dogs.

Just a little background on how that works is on campus we can host up to 16 warriors here in Florida, and then we also have a campus in San Antonio, Texas where we can host four warriors a month. So our veterans come and they stay with us for three weeks once they're accepted into our program. They go through training with their dog and that training process for three weeks, having relationships with corporate partners and individuals is essential in order for us to be able to host these warriors.

We have to train the warriors as well. We have the dog trained and ready to go, but now it's time for the warriors to get their training piece too. So when they come to our campus and stay here for those three weeks, these relationships allow us to do that and allow us to pair the dogs with warriors. So it's essential and we could not uphold our mission without relationships like this.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, so important. If anyone's out there, if you have questions, comments, thoughts, please put them into the chat. This is the time. I know it is touching every single one of us right now.

But Joe, let's start with you. We are in May is Mental Month Health. May is Mental Health Month. Sorry, everyone. And you talked about this, really looking for a solution. Can you just talk about the importance of Eagle, but also this is K9 for Warriors really offering, thinking about what's going on and helping you make that transition.

Joe Moreno: Sure. I mean, first off, I just want to thank Chelsea and all the partners that she's worked with. These donations are really truly changing lives and in many, many cases saving lives. I mean, I can tell you from my personal experience, I spent many mornings locked in a bathroom in the floor in tears because I didn't know how to face the day and I didn't want anybody else to know what I was going through. This got me out of the bathroom floor.

And I met Bill. Link and Eagle were good play buddies before we ever came along. And now Bill and I talk almost every single day. But really the great thing about K9s, and Bill talked about it on the front end, where during that waiting period, they stay connected with you every single month. But that didn't stop once we graduated. I hear from K9s every month, sometimes multiple times a month and a lot of times it's really just checking in and saying, "Hey, how are you doing? How's Eagle? Is there anything that you guys need?" And those donations provide the resources for them to be able to do that full wraparound service.

On campus, it was incredible. The campus is so beautiful. It was one of the few times where I could really let my guard down and just be. They provided for everything. Those donations didn't just get us there. All of our meals were covered. They didn't keep us on campus to train with our dogs. They took us out in public every single day to get back into the world and do things that we may have avoided, but now do them with our new dogs, our battle buddies, to really show us that, hey, this is something that you can achieve. And those donations allow that to happen. It allows the program to be as robust as it is and not locked on a campus in a multi-purpose room doing their training. With K9s, we actually get back into the environments that we've typically avoided to show us that with this dog, with this battle buddy, that we can actually get back and start living our lives again.

So I really can't thank K9s and the corporate partners and Chelsea and the [inaudible 00:30:14]. To actually go to the Roofers Expo in Vegas with [inaudible 00:30:23] and I meet so many great people that are in the roofing industry. It was such an uplifting experience for myself. Sometimes these environments can be a little tricky and at that Roofers Expo, everybody was so just curious to know, has this worked? Thank you. I gave out K9s information to so many people that just wanted to know how they could be involved in this. So those corporate partnerships really, really truly are saving lives.

Heidi Ellsworth: I mean, Bill, please add to that, just those three weeks and how important that is and the relationship that you have with Link, but also the friendship you have with Joe now and with the other warriors who were there for those three weeks.

Bill Lins: So similar to what Joe said, I think that the campus was the first place that I felt really safe and not had to worry about anything. They've done a really wonderful job of setting things up and creating it in a way that allows you to tone down all of the defenses and safety behaviors that you've walked around with for so long. It fostered an environment where we could really work on the task at hand and not worry about all the stuff going on in our head. And even that was just such a huge reprieve for a couple weeks. It helped with sleeping and it allowed us to do all of these things with the dogs that were challenging tasks without also having to worry about the whole rest of the day. It was very deliberate and methodical, the way that everything was set up. And there was very few, if any, things that I could point out that did not help make that as successful as it was.

I know that Chelsea talked about the idea of sponsoring these 16 dogs, and paired with warriors, it's 32 lives. I know that it's way more than that. Everyone that comes in contact with Link and I are better off for it. My kids love him. I coach youth sports. All of my players love him. The families love him. I work as a mental health therapist at this point, and having clients around him is wonderful because they feel more at ease, and it's so much easier versus walking in a room and talking to me, where they can just look at my dog and pretend like they're having a conversation. And it's been so wonderful to see how that impacts everywhere we go.

He's very popular, and I'm normally someone who likes to stay very to myself and I am forced out of my comfort zone, but I don't feel bad because it's so fun to talk about him. It's just like talking about my children at this point. I like to brag and say things that they've done and what they're doing, and it feels good to have that always at my side. And I know that we talked about how these animals, many of them are rescues.

And Link is a fun success story in and of himself. They found him in a kill shelter in Georgia. He was I think 29 pounds when they found him, absolutely skin and bones. He was missing giant patches of fur. He had six types of worms. He had some disease that dogs don't even get. And he was able to get to a place now where, like Joe said, we travel, we do things. And he's living an amazing life at this point. And I think that part of that partnership and bond that we have together is we've kind of healed together. We've gotten to a better place in life and it's all been together.

And speaking of campus, I remember the very first day when they introduced us to our dogs. And one thing that we kind of did this little interview right before we received the dogs, just to make sure that it was a good fit. And the trainer that was working with Link said, "This is my favorite dog that I've ever worked with." And the fact that I was getting him made me feel so good because it was somebody saying, "You're worth this. And it's not just any dog. It's the best one that I've worked with."

And that was such a huge shift for me that felt very undeserving, unworthy. And I remember the first day after they kind of said, "Just go play with your dogs, hang out, get used to them," I took him to the swimming pool and he ran around with the zoomies like a madman. And I caught myself because I was laughing, and it felt awkward to be laughing and such a genuine, carefree kind of happiness that I had not experienced in a very long time.

And I think that's also why relationships like the one I have with Joe, or many of the classmates still keeping in contact, and it becomes a resource that we can say, "Hey, my dog's doing this. Does anybody know anything about that?" And we kind of go through each other and we're our own little support network before we then also can go back to K9s and say, "Hey, can I have some help with this thing or that thing?" And it's not like, oh no, we already gave you a dog. You're good. If you ask a question, they will overwhelm you with resources and things to be helpful. There's no shortage of willingness to help on their behalf. And it's just very nice to be surrounded by so many people that are good people because for a long time I walked around not really believing in good. So it created a huge shift that I did not expect for myself.

Heidi Ellsworth: And how were you paired with Link and Eagle? How is that determined?

Bill Lins: So their process is pretty meticulous. There's a lot to it that we don't necessarily see a ton of. We do some interview type things and they gauge our life activity and if we have any kind of physical needs. They kind of look at everything to make sure that the dog's a good fit for the person.

And I was blown away. And I think Joe and I have had this conversation amongst several other veterans that have been through, the process that they used to pick the dog that fits with somebody, they were all the absolute perfect match for that person. There was very little like, ah, this is kind of weird about my dog and we don't get along. Link and I are wonderful together, and they offered when I interviewed, I have injuries on my left side. So they're like, we can train him to be a right heeling dog instead of a left heeling dog so you can hold your leash in the other hand. I talked about how I have small children, so they made sure his temperament was good with that. I told them how I coach sports. So they're like, "All right, well we're going to make sure he doesn't just chase every ball he sees." So they really looked at every aspect of life, and it is a perfect partnership as far as I'm concerned.

Heidi Ellsworth: Wow. Joe?

Joe Moreno: Yeah, I would just echo what Bill said. I remember doing an initial interview when I first got accepted, and like Bill said, it's a bit of a lifestyle questionnaire. Do you have children? Do you have other pets? Where do you live? Do you have a yard? Do you not have a yard? We did it one more time a few weeks before arriving to campus. And then as Bill said, we did it a few hours before actually getting our dogs, just to make sure that our circumstances hadn't changed. And now in person they could see us and kind of gauge our personalities and just make sure that the dog that they were thinking was the right fit was still the right fit.

And they could not have done a better job than Eagle. Eagle is just an incredible dog. He's got such an old soul and he's so loving and goofy, and I really truly, I've told K9s this many times, that whatever they're doing behind the scenes is truly working. That pairing couldn't have been any better than what it is.

But I wanted to touch on something Bill had mentioned, and it's so true and I'm glad he mentioned it, is, yes, we talk about the dog and us, the veteran, but Eagle has changed so many people's lives. We go to the grocery store. Everybody there loves Eagle. They line up to come make a friend and pet him and love on him. And it's like that everywhere we go. My daughter got her father back, my parents got their son back, Bill's children got their father back. It's so much more than just us and the dog. And I know K9s has really focused on us, but they're changing lives on a much broader spectrum than just the dog and the warrior.

And not in a goofy way, but I have Bill, too. So we've built a friendship and we literally talk every single day. Every single day we have talked since we left campus. Sometimes it's just random inappropriate veterans stuff. Sometimes it's, "Hey, my dog's doing this." A lot of times it's, "Hey, I'm struggling today. I just need to bounce some things off of you." So we've become our own support system with one another as well.

I was able to have Bill come out around this time last year actually and come to the beach and spend a weekend learning how to surf. So it's the impact that K9s is making and really with those partnerships that they have in the community with the different corporate partnerships, is allowing these types of things to happen. And it's far beyond just the dog and the veteran. Sometimes it's a bit emotional to think that there are people that I will never meet that care enough to try to save my life and save Eagle's life. So sometimes it's a little emotional to think about. But yeah, the pairing was perfect and Eagle's, he's phenomenal. He's asleep, by the way. It's a little early still on the West Coast.

Heidi Ellsworth: We do these things early for this roofing community. Joe and Bill, again, thank you so much for sharing all this. And I just want to bring up in the chat, Trent Cotney is on, Trent, thank you so much, and asking about how to donate, how can I be involved, because Trent's in Jacksonville? And as you said, your two favorite things, dogs and vets. But Megan has put a link in here to where you can go and donate and where you can get more information and we're going to have more of that. So Trent, thank you so much. He just donated. Thank you, Trent. Wow.

Kiersan, actually, I want Chelsea, I've been thinking this as we've been talking here, but how important is, we talked about the roofing industry giving back, but K9s for Warriors is really giving to us. I mean, when you think about the culture and what it's now, that culture that you've brought into Beacon and you're bringing into the roofing industry overall, how is that? What have you seen just from culturally, the growth since you've been involved with K9s for Warriors?

Chelsea Oesch: The great thing about K9s is I feel like it is a relationship that is reciprocated in both directions and that we truly gain a partnership because K9s has come out to events. As Joe has even mentioned, he was at the International Roofing Expo with us. They have come out to our leadership summit. But it's also just connecting with our own employees. We have many veterans within our organization, and them getting to see that we're giving back to organizations is very impactful and goes along with so many of our core values of doing the right thing and just being a community partner. And we're really walking the talk in our relationship with K9s for Warriors.

But I'll say as a partnership, K9s is just fantastic, so responsive and willing to really do whatever we ask for them when it comes to events. So we're so grateful not only for their partnership, but what it's also doing for our company culture and for our customers just to really see that we're more than just a shingle, we're more than just a roof and we're really living those core values.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love it. And Kiersan, we are talking about donations, which is so important, people donating, but there's also opportunities to volunteer, right?

Kiersan Cue: Yes, yes, absolutely. So we have volunteer opportunities for both of our campuses, our campus in Florida and then our campus in San Antonio. For individuals, we are always looking for people to foster our dogs. Part of the training process is making sure that they know what a home life is like and they're not at our campus all the time in our kennels. So we foster dogs out to individuals locally here in Florida and in San Antonio.

We're also always looking for volunteers to cook meals for our warriors, volunteers for events, volunteers on campus to come help us out. We have a large, we have two campuses here in Florida and it takes a lot of manpower to make sure our campus is looking good, but also make sure that our vans are clean and all of the cars that we have. So we have so many different volunteer opportunities. But the same goes for businesses with events and volunteering on campus. We can always use the extra hand and help.

Heidi Ellsworth: Well, you've probably just tapped into one of the leading roofing people in Jacksonville and that's Trent Cotney. So there you go. He'll probably bring all the associations and everyone else along with it. I think as we're looking through that on how people can get more involved too, we would love to know what are some of the future plans that you have, Kiersan, and then Chelsea. What are some of the future plans that you guys are, I mean, we know we have 16, 32 lives. I think that's just amazing. But Kiersan, start with you. What are some of the things people should be looking forward to or be aware of?

Kiersan Cue: Yeah, absolutely. So just two weeks ago now, we are so excited, we broke ground on our vet clinic. This is a huge, huge project for us. We are going to officially have a full veterinarian on staff with us at K9s. We've never had a veterinarian on staff. We always outsource, and that takes a lot of time. So this is between needing to get rescue dogs spayed and neutered, but also all of their vaccinations and different medications.

And then sometimes, like Bill mentioned, when we rescue dogs, they are in bad shape and we need that veterinarian support with all the different medical things that arise with that. So being able to have a vet clinic is going to be massive for us. So that's super exciting. We just broke ground, though, so it's going to be a little bit until it's up and running and in full service. But it is going to allow us a quicker training time, which will be huge, because now instead of having to wait sometimes three weeks for a dog to get into the vet, it'll be that day when they come to campus. So it's a huge change in pace for us.

But our main future plan is to really just increase the kennel space that we have so we can rescue more dogs. Currently right now in Florida with our mega campus as well, we are able to rescue up to 150 dogs at a time and 36 in Texas. So we would really like to expand the number of dogs that we can rescue and bring into our program.

But also, too, we really want to grow and be able to host more warriors on campus. Like I mentioned earlier, we can host up to 16 in Florida and four in Texas and we really want to grow that number so that way we can help more warriors. But the biggest thing, too, is also to educate veterans. That is our biggest plan always, is to educate veterans that we are here as a resource and to really grow our program that way through educating veterans and letting everybody know that we are here as a resource for them and to serve them.

Heidi Ellsworth: Chelsea, to your point, we have so many veterans who work in roofing. What a great message to get out, to let them first of all either support it or maybe they need to get involved and they need to find their own Link or Eagle. What have you heard back from the veterans who you've worked with at Beacon?

Chelsea Oesch: Yeah, so the story is always very much the same. I hear the same experience that Joe and Bill have shared with us today. But you're really taking a dog and a veteran that are just existing to actually living and enjoying life. And that is really what is reiterated time and time again from all of these veterans. So that's what really inspires us to do more and really try to up our partnership with them every year.

So there's really no limit on what we plan to do, but other than continue to grow our partnership with K9s this past year, we also, Kiersan spoke about the vet clinic, we delivered the shingles and underlayment, all the roofing accessories that they need for that building. And so they're stored away once they're ready for that roof to go on. So we are just looking to find other ways that we can sponsor and support K9 Warriors, even if it isn't just sponsoring warrior pairs. Obviously a lot is needed to make the K9 Warriors organization run and we just want to be seen as a strong partner to their organization.

Heidi Ellsworth: So our editor, Lauren White, was lucky enough to meet Joe and Eagle at IRE. When you were there, Joe, she came by. I think we have a picture in the chat. I'm not sure if it downloaded or not. And next year, the International Roofing Expo is in San Antonio, so any little glimpse on we may be able to meet some more warriors and their K9s?

Chelsea Oesch: So whenever the K9s for Warrior group came to our leadership summit that we had in Dallas earlier this year, we already brought up that, hey, International Roofing Expo is in San Antonio and we've got to make sure that they are involved. We foresee that we'll have multiple dogs, probably some of their local trainers also come in. But yes, the plan is have lots of visibility around our K9s for Warriors partnership while IRE is in San Antonio.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, that's exciting. That is so cool. And right there, Kiersan, that will be awesome. Now if people want to, and before I go on, if you have any questions or comments, we have about 10 minutes, so please get them in the chat. So if you have any questions on how to get involved or how your company can be involved or if you know a vet who maybe you think this would benefit, please let us know.

And Kiersan, as you're looking forward, can people come and they just reach out? Talk about donating, volunteering. How do they do that? Do they do it through the website? They just give you a call? What's the best way to get started?

Kiersan Cue: Yeah, website, you can call either of our offices. I can also drop my email in the chat as well. If you're ever interested in getting more involved, I'm happy to point you in the right direction, depending on what avenue you're looking to get involved with our organization in. But yeah, we would love to have, if any of you guys are local to San Antonio or Jacksonville, we are always giving tours of our campus. We really want everybody in our community to know what we're doing and get involved with the work that we're doing. So happy to set any of those tours or get those conversations started.

Heidi Ellsworth: That's cool. Joe, some last thoughts on what you're doing now. You and Bill, I'd love to hear from both of you, are spokespeople for K9s for Warriors, you're traveling everywhere, you're helping other veterans. When you look at the roofing industry and that connection, especially after being at IRE last year, what are some things that you would recommend to people on how to continue to get involved and to give back?

Joe Moreno: I think just like we've been talking about, obviously the donations are important. Without that, this just doesn't run. But the volunteers, the volunteers are so important and I've mentioned this in different places, but I can't thank them enough. During our three weeks on campus, those volunteers, we had a house mom, just a volunteer that would come to the house and just be present, a smiling face and somebody we could talk to if we wanted to. So it's things like that.

We had volunteers that cooked our meals every night for dinner. So we got a home-cooked meal every night while we were there. Those volunteers make such a difference in the experience that we have, so we can actually just be there, be present and do the things we need to do to be successful for ourselves. So honestly, I would say obviously donations are important and not everybody can, but volunteering or at the very least just share the mission with somebody else because you never know who's going to need it.

We talked about the larger impact of people that come in contact with the dogs and us and to other organizations about K9s going to the store. Eagle has an Instagram account. I've met so many veterans that didn't know this was an option, and I was able to connect with them and just explain to them how this works and give them the information in case this was something that would work for them. So spreading the message is really important. A lot of veterans don't know what resources are out there and available to them.

And at K9s, there's so many people that are waiting to help and want to help. They just need to reach the veteran. So I would say more than anything, just sharing the mission of K9s for Warriors, go on their social media, get on their website and just understand how the mission works and share that information. And that's probably going to be one of the most helpful things for reaching others that need it.

Heidi Ellsworth: Love it. Bill, you shared your story up front and then you shared that you're now a mental health provider. You're with your kids, you're coaching. So I just would love for you to tell us where you're at a little bit more in your life and how the roofing industry can continue to be more involved to help.

Bill Lins: So I have tried to find purpose in life again, and I feel like I've gotten to that point after I didn't have one. I didn't have a real reason or anything that would bring fulfillment to my life. So I've started to try and give back and help others in whatever way I can. I often say that I'm trying to be the person I wish I had bumped into 15 or 20 years ago that would've helped me right out of the gate instead of waiting and letting things continue to go downhill.

And I think just like Joe said at the end there, the awareness is key. A lot of people don't know about these resources and that they can ask for things like this, and it sounds like this profession is a place where a lot of veterans are working. So be curious and talk to your people. They may be really hurting, and we're very good at hiding. Very good. So talk, ask questions, be there.

I think the best thing that ever happened to me was when I said earlier, K9s was there to the point where it was annoying. They would not stop. And had they, I would've not reached out. I would've just kept going in my direction. But them kind of hammering away at me, kept me involved with them. If I hadn't somehow stumbled upon that or walked into someone that had a service animal with him, I wouldn't have known about this as an option. And it seems now like it makes so much sense because now that I'm in this world a little bit more, I can kind of see it everywhere. Whereas prior to this, it wouldn't even have been a thought that crossed my mind. So keep an eye on people and yeah, just keep a phone number, an email address or something that can be passed out.

Megan Ellsworth: Bill, this has been so, and Joe, so inspirational. Heidi, her computer just went awry. So I'm hopping on. Hello, everyone. I've been over here in the same room as Heidi, crying because your stories are so, so profound and so inspirational. Thank you both for sharing, and thank you Kiersan and thank you Chelsea, and thank you Trent for donating. What a great roundabout, amazing thing that happened from this.

So I just really wanted to thank TRI-BUILT again for sponsoring this and all the great work. I can't believe you're also sponsoring 16, 32 lives and 16 partnerships between dogs and veterans this year. That's so exciting. Serious round of applause for TRI-BUILT on that. Chelsea, any last words on why people should get involved with K9s for Warriors, especially people in the roofing industry, everyone out here listening?

Chelsea Oesch: I think if they just listen to Joe and Bill's story, it really speaks for their experience in the organization. And it's, to me, a no-brainer. We're really able to impact and change people's lives for the better. And like I said, that they're able to live again, and there's just no greater feeling than knowing that you're changing lives. And so I would just encourage everyone to find a way to be involved with the organization.

And like they said, it doesn't take money. Sometimes it's just speaking about the organization or sharing an Instagram post that you never know what little simple things that you're doing that could have a big impact. And so I just encourage everyone to some way somehow become involved with the organization, and we really look forward to growing that partnership in the years to come.

Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely. Bill and Joe and Eagle and Link, thank you so much for joining us today. Kiersan, thank you so much. Chelsea, TRI-BUILT, Beacon. This is so amazing. Oh, there's Link. Hi, buddy. Yay. Oh, so precious. Oh my gosh.

And everyone out there listening, thank you so much for watching and enjoying and crying with us. I know you all have been because I've been. And we just can't thank Beacon and TRI-BUILT enough for being a partner with RoofersCoffeeShop, sponsoring this Coffee Conversations and bringing K9s for Warriors into this and sharing it with us in this great industry.

Next week, or the week after, on May 23rd, we have our next Coffee Conversations. It's sponsored by GAF and we're going to be talking about their Roofing Academy and everything they do to bring more people into the industry. Just great stuff that this industry is doing to bring veterans and dogs together. All sorts of bringing more people into the industry as well. So thank you all for attending. This will be available within 24 hours on rooferscoffeeshop.com. And everyone, thank you again, Chelsea, Kiersan, Joe, Bill, Eagle, Link. I hope you have a great day.

Chelsea Oesch: Bye, everyone. Thank you.

Kiersan Cue: Nice seeing you. Thank you so much.

Megan Ellsworth: See you on the next one.

Chelsea Oesch: Thank you.



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