The “Tail” of a Nonprofit
People all throughout my life have always given me a hard time about having “ADHD.” Interestingly enough, they are probably right. When I think back through the past, it has served me well when put in situations that allowed me to freely move about, have a deadline to complete a task, use creative ways to problem solve, and use my creative mind. My interests are many, however I am especially drawn to the military. My father, a WWII Marine who served in the Pacific Islands, rarely if ever talked to me about his time in combat. I have never personally served and it wasn’t until my husband and son served, that I began to have even a slight understanding of what he must have experienced and how it transcended into his life post war. The enormity of it all began to explain his choices and behaviors, as well as what I have learned from my veterans of Project Delta, can only be described as “moral injury.”
Having a husband and son in the military and “adopting” another son who served overseas deployments during the peak of the Iraq war, I began to observe holes both in active duty as well as transitioning out and re-entering the civilian world. I mentored endless recruit families from boot camp through deployments those holes became more and more apparent. I wasn’t real familiar with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury and didn’t comprehend even in the slightest how we could have military sexual trauma within our own military. And I didn’t really know what to do with those terms. It would however come full circle shortly down the road.
To fully understand how this mission was created is to understand my obsession with the dog. That four legged, tail wagging, forever loyal, unconditional (well, slightly conditional) creature that fills every emotional gap or hole in my life. That slobbery, sad-eyed, poop machine that melts away the worst of my days. I swear, more often that not, I find myself relating better to my dogs than I do most humans. If I have learned 2 April 11, 2019 anything in my lifetime is to embrace my relationship with my dogs. Quite honestly, people should learn from dogs. Their world would be brighter, it would be filled with more joy, and they would take pleasure in the little things they do. It is because of my dogs, my life pivoted, I learned about gratitude for the simple things, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Sometimes I wish this had happened 30 years ago, but I have learned that it can take a lifetime of experiences and even mistakes to come to that “ah ha” moment in your life when it all comes together. Therefore, after being introduced to the concept of the service dog world through another organization, my world went from working to live, to living my passion!
Take a Deep Breath Because I Think Life Is About To Change!
I have been a nurse now for over 30 years. I had no idea what went into starting a nonprofit or that a 501c3 was even the same thing. Lacking any real business sense or skills was probably a good thing because it allowed me to simply dive in and begin what has been the most incredible journey of my life. Strangely enough, what I did next was purchase a planner. A really, really good planner. I also bought post-it notes. Lots and lots of post-it notes. Anytime I had a thought, regardless of what it was, if I didn’t have my planner directly on me, I wrote it on a post-it note.
Since November of 2014, I have poured over journals, articles, studies and statistics surrounding PTSD, TBI and MST in the military. I have researched the treatments and their success rate. I have learned the statistics surrounding the rescue/shelter dog world, particularly in 3 April 11, 2019 Minnesota. I have tirelessly read about the relationships and evolution between humans and their dogs. As a nurse I was knowledgable about Oxytocin however I had no idea the relationship between what is known as the “love hormone” in humans and interactions with dogs. After all of this, the next rational step was to determine whether there would be a need for a service dog organization here in the Twin Cities. Sadly, I quickly learned, I am needed.
What was about to happen next could be wrote about for hundreds of pages. In summary, I, with the help of some amazing people who educated me, supported me, gave tireless hours to assist me in launching for seed money, allowed me to begin implementing my dream. I incorporated April of 2016. As a group we launched on August 14, 2016 and paired our first team on November 16, 2016. Project Delta was up and running.
Successful launching and pairing does not equal a successful program. The next year would demonstrate more failures and struggles than successes. Because of the most amazing young lady, Lindsay Bordwell, we were able to endlessly pivot and restructure the program to represent everything we wanted for the veterans and the dogs that would enter their life. I have been blessed with a core group of people with various talents and experience that guided me then, and continue to do so to date. They have helped me trouble shoot and explore every avenue needed to successfully stay afloat. The program has made the necessary changes to empower our veterans, protect the integrity of the dog they train with, and improve the lives of both. We are building relationships with likeminded organizations that believe and support the mission for both demographics. We are building a sense of community that has come to rally around these veterans and these dogs. Our following is 4 April 11, 2019 cheering them on and excited to witness the progress. All of it comes with obstacles and occasional setbacks. But what fuels me and and motivates me is overcoming these obstacles and setbacks to provide our veteran teams with what they need to be successful. It will always be an ongoing journey however as long as its for the greater good of the mission, we will continue to grow, develop relationships, save dogs and give back to the veterans who sacrificed for us all! I hope you’ll all return to the blog to read the veteran/dog team stories, meet the Project Delta family, learn about the service dog world, and maybe decide you have a place in this amazing world.