In July 2008, Chuck Geertz signed a contract to lease 32 acres to be used as a lodge and resort which would offer a safe, stress free, relaxing outdoor experience for our disabled veterans, veterans and their family members. This 32 acres is located at 2564 305 th St., Washington, Iowa; five miles south of Washington, surrounded by Sockum Ridge Park, a 215 acre county park of actively managed woodlands.
The first year in 2008, English River Outfitters hosted just 6 veterans, the property was a very primitive setting; they used borrowed campers and tents, carried their water in for drinking, cooking and coffee, and used small generators for electricity and they even had make shift port-a-potties for the first year. Within 5 years English River Outfitters has grown from a very primitive site with no buildings, electricity, indoor plumbing or water to a 30 x 40 finished lodge that will accommodate 10 veterans. They have an indoor shower with hot and cold running water, electricity, heat, a deck and patio with a fire pit and a .54 acre fishing pond; English River Outfitters have severed over 1,200 veterans and their families as of 31 December 2014.
English River Outfitters draws from a variety of skills and abilities;
Chuck Geertz the Founder and President served 23 years in the military and was deployed twice and served as a Causality Assistance Officer for five fallen soldiers. Chuck started his business career at an early age of 12 by carrying newspapers; he managed three paper routes at the same time. He then became the Asst. Manger of Pizza Hut and then a Manger for several years. Chuck also wrote a business and financial plan and started an HVAC business; he operated this successfully for six years. In 1988 Chuck reenlisted into the Army where he had several job duties. He served as a Rifleman in the Infantry, Combat Engineer, Utilities Equipment Technician, a Recruiter and an Operation Sergeant. Chuck retired in 2009 at the rank of Sergeant First Class (E-7). Chuck wrote the business and financial plan for English River Outfitters and began operating ERO in 2008. After retiring from the Army he got involved with the VFW and became the Quartermaster for the local VFW Post 1565, he later became the Commander and again wrote a business and financial plan that saved the VFW Post from bankruptcy and was able to purchase a new VFW home located in Muscatine, Iowa.
Harlan Yoder, the Vice President served in the Army for Four years. He is a retired Pharmacist for the University of Iowa with 30 years until he retired in 2012. He is a longtime member of the American Legion where he has served as a Quartermaster, Post Commander and District Commander.
Michelle Briggs, is the Secretary for ERO. She is a 3 star widow. Michelle Briggs and Robert Briggs joined ERO in 2009 to help other injured veterans and their families as well as a healing outpost for Bob after sustaining severe injuries while serving in Iraq in 2005. Bob became the vice president until his passing in 2011 from the injuries sustained while serving in Iraq. Bob and Michelle was the driving force for the Iowa Injured Veterans Grant being written and passed. Michelle along with 13 other Wounded Warrior caregivers lobbied and helped get passed the Caregiver Program for wounded warrior caregivers. Michelle and her two children care on the honor of Bob for the sacrifice and love for his fellow wounded warriors and their families so they will never be forgotten. She continues to be a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves. Michelle, owns a family run small business in SE Iowa.
Tami Arbogast, (CPA), Treasurer. Tami is new to English River Outfitters, she owns and operates an accounting firm in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
Volunteers, we have drawn several key volunteers, Bruce Barton, (Retired Captain USMC, and retired from Rockwell Collins), Charles Dixon, (U.S. Air Force and Rockwell Collins), Victor Goodrich, (U.S. Army, Mechanic) as well as several others.
English River Outfitters has affiliated itself with the American Legion District 1, Iowa; Chamber of Commerce, Washington, Iowa; VFW Post 1565, Muscatine, Iowa and the Iowa Army National Guard. We have formed several partnerships with other Non-Profit organizations; Hunters for Heroes, Military Warrior Support Foundation, Mid-West Military Outreach Service, Jason’s Box, Camp Valor Outdoors.
English River Outfitters has earned the Gold participation level from Guide Star Exchange. The Guide Star Exchange is an initiative designed to connect nonprofits with current and potential supporters. With millions of people coming to Guide Star to learn more about nonprofit organizations, the Guide Star Exchange allows nonprofits to share a wealth of up-to-date information with Guide Star's many audiences. To join, organizations need to update their report pages, completing all required fields for participation. The Guide Star Exchange level logos, acknowledged as symbols of transparency in the nonprofit sector, are displayed on all Exchange participants' nonprofit reports.
English River Outfitters has also earned and is a member of the United Ways Direct Contribution Program.
Since English River Outfitters was established in 2008, they have accomplished serving over 1200 veterans and their families. The first year in 2008, English River Outfitters hosted just 6 veterans, the property was a very primitive setting; they used barrowed campers and tents, carried their water in for drinking, cooking and coffee, and used small generators for electricity and they even had make shift port-a-potties for the first year. With-in 5 years English River Outfitters has grown from a very primitive site with no buildings, electricity, indoor plumbing or water to a 30 x 40 finished lodge that will accommodate 10 veterans. They have an indoor shower with hot and cold running water, electricity, heat, deck and a patio with a fire pit and a .54 acre fishing pond. They have designed a Three Star Program, Blue Star (Serving), Silver Star (Injured) and Gold Star (KIA, Died while on orders and Death from service connected disabilities/injuries) that includes all of our veterans and their families.
Through their "Life Skills" Program using the Peer-Peer approach they have impacted five (5) veterans and their families; 3 veterans from committing suicide and two families from divorce. The "life Skills" Program has also given several veterans the self esteem that they needed by allowing the veterans to be a part of a group and do a job that they use to do prior to an injury or disability that they thought prevented them from doing the job.
English River Outfitters Board is comprised of Combat Veterans and their family members. Their volunteers are also veterans and family members. Each one knows what our veterans are going through and is available to talk or listen when they are called on. Michelle Briggs was on the panel and the driving force behind the "Care Giver Bill" she and her husband Bob also wrote and pushed to get the "Iowa Injured Veteran Grant" passed. Chuck and Michelle wrote and got a Bill passed that would allow disabled veterans to come to Iowa and not have to pay non-resident fees. Harlan has held several American Legion Post and District offices. Chuck also has held several VFW Post Offices. Victor Goodrich who is a volunteer is a VFW District Officer as well as a VFW State Officer. Chuck and Michelle both are small business owners.
English River Outfitters has formed several Partnerships with a wide variety of companies and organizations. Companies like; Rockwell Collins, General Mills, Cargill Foods, Vermeer Corporation, John Deere and H.J. Hienz; and Organizations like; the Iowa Vet Centers, the V.A. Medical Center, Midwest Military Outreach Service, Iowa Army National Guard, Johnson County Veteran Council, Sport-Ability of Iowa.
All of English River Outfitters Board Members and volunteers are members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and/or the American Legion.
The Need and Opportunity
To date, more than 2.4 million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. For many, the return home is fraught with challenges:
- 1 in 4 have sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder/depression
- 1 in 3 struggles with substance/alcohol abuse
- 1 in 5 is unemployed
- 22 commit suicide every day
According to a 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs study, an estimated 22 veterans kill themselves every day, with 182 suicides, the Army led the pack, followed by the Navy (60), Air Force (59) and Marines (48).
Also in 2012, according to The Guardian, 6,500 former military personnel committed suicide, a rate equal to about one death every 80 minutes.
Military Sexual Assault (MST), The Pentagon has released new data about the reported number of sexual assaults in the military. Between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 there were 3,553 reports of sexual assault, a 43% increase from the year before. During the same period, there were 219 casualties in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, soldiers were 15 times more likely to be raped by a comrade then killed by an enemy.
Some veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), or other military service related problems. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 17 percent of Iraq veterans and 11 percent of Afghanistan veterans suffered from PTSD. Another such study by RAND, a nonprofit research and analysis corporation, showed that 20 percent of both Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD. In addition, simply adjusting to civilian life is difficult for some returning military veterans and their family members.
The approach of English River Outfitters "Veterans Reaching Out to Veterans" is a Peer-on-Peer approach to boost our veterans Self Esteem through our "Life Skills" program. Since we have started our Program we have impacted and prevented three veterans from committing suicide and two families from a divorce.
Projects and Programs
We have continuous on-going Projects that we bring veterans in to work on, they consist of;
Equipment maintenance, changing oil, tune-ups, etc.
Build cabins, electrical, plumbing
Construct a fishing dock
Construct a swimming dock
Construct animal habitat, food plots, fish management
Clear trails in the timber
Ground maintenance, mow grass, change light bulbs, stain deck
Build lawn furniture
All of our projects to date have been completed by disabled veterans; Lodge, retaining wall, electrical, plumbing, pond, trails.
English River Outfitter’s "Life Skills" Program is comprised of three Modules:
Module One - Personal Development: developing self-concept, personal goal setting, problem solving, decision making, dealing with anger, personal safety, time management, grooming and hygiene, alone or lonely, assertiveness, self-esteem, trust, risk taking, values, stress management, and even learning to laugh again.
Module Two - Relating to others, communication skills, self-disclosure and feedback, accepting others, friendships, conflict resolution, hosting and attending social events, and healthy relationships.
Module Three - Life Management Skills: budget coaching, shopping, paying bills, cooking and nutrition, maintaining comfortable living space, landlord/tenant relations, navigating the healthcare system, connecting with community resources, accessing programs, and basic computer skills.
2. English River Outfitters "Life Skills" program is a relaxed setting designed to reach the veteran who has had a bad experience with the Veterans Administration and has anxieties about returning for the help he or she needs.
Our priority is to help foster a healthy readjustment back to civilian life through a positive outdoor experience, fishing, hunting and a campfire. English River Outfitters is part of the "healing process" for veterans.