Shelter to Soldier’s Unique Training Model and New Facility Offers Path for Expanded Donor Opportunities
As Shelter to SoldierTM begins operations for the first quarter of the New Year, an emphasis is being placed on serving a greater number of veterans who have discovered the services available to them free of charge through Shelter to Soldier. While the good news has spread throughout the veteran population, demand has increased exponentially.
In response, Shelter to Soldier has immediate need to adopt and train more service dogs to be paired with eligible veterans (the goal is to place ten service dogs in 2017 and have another 15 in training getting ready for graduation in 2018), and the search for a suitable piece of property to house a new facility in San Diego has been launched. The new facility will encompass the capacity to house, care for, and train up to 30 service dogs in training at one time, three times the current capacity. The facility will also provide an indoor training area with tools & equipment tailored to the specific service dog training tasks and needs.
According to Shelter to Soldier Co-Founder Kyrié Bloem, “Our non-profit organization relies on donations large and small to rescue, train and match our dogs with approved veterans as a service companion. One of the main areas of need is to adopt more dogs into our program, as we have a waiting list of very worthy veterans in need of an immense amount of support through the companionship of a psychiatric service dogs trained through our program.”
Shelter to Soldier is supported solely through charitable contributions from grants, corporations, charitable foundations and private individuals. The cost of a dog’s journey through the program is $12,000 and includes adoption, safe housing fees, medical care, training, equipment, food, grooming, treats, toys, supplements, testing and certifications, liability insurance, handler training, and graduation materials for the veteran. The program also continues to add services to benefit veteran applicants. One of those key additions from 2016 is a mental health liaison that provides one-on-one therapy sessions to approved veterans or those in the application phase who have been approved for this service.
In order to implement their 2017 expansion plans, Shelter to Soldier has a variety of donation options available to interested supporters. Donors may select from an itemized list to contribute toward the total cost of training a dog through the Shelter to Soldier program of $12,000, or donors may opt to sponsor a dog for the entire amount as a Red Star Sponsor.
Shelter to Soldier Founder, Graham Bloem, explains, “Any amount donated contributes to our program expenses. This project is designed to train a potentially behaviorally challenged rescue dog into a level 1 psychiatric service dog in the span of 12-18 months. We also offer lifetime follow-up training for all of our veteran/service dog teams at our facility. Although we evaluate the shelter dogs at a very high level to determine their potential as a working service dog, every dog we rescue is an individual, with unique needs and challenges to work through. We tailor the training program to each dog to build them up to a successful career change from abandoned rescue to psychiatric service dog and lifelong companion.”
The Shelter to Soldier service dog training program includes extensive training sessions with the veteran, providing one-on-one education about their dog’s training needs, day-to-day care, and service dog laws, and preparing the team for success in everyday life. Dogs are housed and treated like family at their training facility with Paw Paradise in Poway, CA.
Shelter to Soldier President Graham Bloem elaborates, “We’re extremely excited about developing a new facility where we can house and train a larger number of rescue dogs and create a campus surrounded by nature for our veterans. We have plans to create a variety of functional areas within the facility for which there will be naming opportunities for donors, including a meditation garden, water features, classroom space with interactive media, grooming salon, and state-of-the-art training center. In the future, the organization plans to add a dormitory for visiting veterans who wish to enroll in our program from other parts of the country.”
A potential site has been determined, and the architectural renderings are being developed. The goal is to move into the new facility in 2018.
Shelter to Soldier has additional avenues of support through a variety of partnerships that have recognized the need for funding to perpetuate the mission of Shelter to Soldier. UNITE, a global professional hair care company donates 90% of the proceeds from the sale of their Doggy ‘Poo dog shampoo to two non-profit organizations in San Diego, including Shelter to Soldier. Shop for a Cause is an online store offering branded apparel where 100% of net proceeds are donated to Shelter to Soldier. Visit www.sheltertosoldier.org and click on the “shop” tab.
Every 69 minutes a US veteran commits suicide and every day, 3200 dogs are euthanized nationwide. Shelter to Soldier adopts dogs from rescues and helps veterans working through the perils of mental injury associated with traumatic combat experiences. The healing impact that a highly trained service dog provides for US Veterans improves their overall quality of life, personal relationships, confidence and sense of security, therefore advancing their mission of “Saving Lives, Two at a Time”.
Shelter to Soldier service dogs help US Veterans integrate back into society and find their purpose, often for the first time since their military service. Visit www.sheltertosoldier.org for additional information or call 855-CUS-TMK9 (855-287-8659) for a confidential interview regarding eligibility. Shelter to Soldier is accredited by the Patriots Initiative and a Gold Participant of GuideStar, the preeminent non-profit accreditation organization in the U.S. Save the date for Shelter to Soldier’s 5th Annual benefit scheduled for September 9, 2017 in Rancho Santa Fe, California. To contact the author, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Eva M. Stimson