God led me to walk away from a 17- year career in education as both a classroom teacher and school principal in order to bring to fruition Roots for Boots, a grassroots organization that aims to meet the needs and challenges of military heroes and their families.
God is the CEO of the non-profit. I’m the Chief Enthusiasm Officer.
I have always had a passion for serving and helping others. When I reflect on my life, I can clearly see how God was preparing me for this opportunity as well as see His hands move through all we do with Roots for Boots. Where I may not have seen a way, He provided a way. No challenge was too big.
The journey began when I was working on my Masters in Elementary Education. I had the opportunity to secure a teaching job in a small parochial school that my children attended. The college I was attending would not let me finish the elementary education program and, in order to receive the degree, I had to switch my program to Leadership in Teaching which consisted of educators pursuing a degree in administration. I had no interest in that, but finished the program in order to acquire the Masters. Fourteen years later, well into my teaching career, our principal of many years retired, and the candidate who stepped in to fill that position resigned after a year. I knew someone from within the school would have to fill that position, and I had a strong feeling that God was calling me. I had no desire to be a principal, and I fought it, but I kept getting that nudge from God, and it continued to get more intense. I trust God 100% in all I do, so I agreed to fill the position for three years, even though I knew it would be the hardest job I would ever have. God would be with me and not put me in a position that I wouldn’t be able to handle; this I knew!
While I was at the school, I was tasked with planning the Veterans Day assemblies. I absolutely loved Veterans Day at the school, and when I became principal, the school adopted three active-duty servicemen (once each year I was there) to support each month. This was where I learned their stories and heard their struggles. From that I gained a spirit of perseverance and strength. I was inspired to keep going during hard times; never give up on a challenge and live to fight another day; to complete the Mission! Those three years would be like my boot camp for what God was planning. As principal, I learned how to run a Board, market a non-profit, create a budget, manage teams and more. Later, that would give me a great edge when forming Roots for Boots. I also met every single person I needed to start the non-profit during those three years!
At the end of the third and final year of my contract, I was burnt out, and knew I needed a change. I just couldn’t figure out what that would be. I felt that nudge coming on again. Relying on my faith in God, I turned to Him for guidance as I always do. At the final Veterans Day assembly of my time as principal, I asked a Marine friend of mine if he knew where I could volunteer to assist local veterans in a more hands on manner. There was nothing available locally. But his response was the spark that became Roots for Boots. He said, “Why don’t you start your own thing?” It just so happened, his specialty was business development. And so it started. After a long day at school, this Marine and I would get on the phone in the evenings and form the business plan for the non-profit. The pieces were falling into place. It was very apparent what God was up to and I knew my season at the school had come to a close.
Roots for Boots is a grassroots organization that serves the men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way to protect our great country and the freedoms we enjoy. Hence, the name Roots for Boots. We are the “roots” and they are the “boots”! We offer members of the community opportunities to use their God given gifts, talents and resources to engage, connect with and support veterans, active duty and military families. We serve them in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, assistance with rent, utilities, home/car repairs, roof replacement/repair, gas cards, VA issues, construction of wheelchair ramps, and securing all terrain Action trackchairs for our veterans with disabilities that affect mobility outdoors. These chairs get them back to hunting, fishing or just enjoying the great outdoors!
Roots for Boots also runs a very unique food bank that now serves close to 120 veterans each month. It is graciously hosted at the Markets at Hanover in Hanover, Pennsylvania and is a partnership with The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. The food bank provides milk, eggs, meats, produce and some non-perishable items. Roots for Boots has its own food pantry that supplements what the food bank does not supply. We gather those items from the community who enthusiastically embrace this program. Community donations include: pasta, instant potatoes, rice, soup, cereal, flour/sugar, canned goods, etc. We distribute a month’s worth of food on that second Tuesday of each month to veterans who are registered for the program. We also provide a lunch for these veterans where they can all fellowship with one another. They love this aspect of our food bank because they share so much in common. At these distributions, we have a team chaplain who prays before the event and provides any spiritual help to those who are struggling. We also have a veteran service officer who can work with these men and women on any VA issues they may be confronting.
We are a 100% volunteer organization and are funded through community (we take no government assistance) that embraces our mission and work. We also have our own fundraisers. I never worry about where the money or donations of products will come from because God always provides exactly what is needed.
The core values of Roots for Boots are to Serve, Educate and Inspire. I put service to others first in my life at a very young age; education was my life’s work and will always be a part of what I do (I go into the schools, usually with a veteran, to educate students about patriotism and love of God, country and serving others); and I hope to inspire others into lives of service.
Every morning, I wake up and ask God to send me to whomever needs me. I put complete trust in Him. When you do that, you better hold on! He will take you on one wild, crazy and wonderful ride! As a teacher, I would tell my students to live each day to be a blessing to others; trust in God; don’t back down from a challenge; don’t be afraid of failure; keep moving forward; you don’t want to miss out on what could be your greatest moment!