CEO Report

To our Supporters and Donors, Potential Donors, and all who may just be getting to know The Sub Zero Mission, greetings!

Sarg Al Raddatz

CEO, Al “Sarge” Raddatz

I am Al “Sarge” Raddatz, one of the founders and the CEO of The Sub Zero Mission.

As of the writing of this update, it is early April 2022. The sun is shining today, and Spring is in the air. It is hard to believe that my last detailed update to you was over a year ago. And, what a year it has been!

Since the last time I reported to you, we have renewed our accreditation with The Better Business Bureau and the Wise Giving Alliance; we worked as a Board of Directors to build new goals to push ourselves towards growth as an organization. We worked on fundraising for our goals creatively, including new personnel and energy to our team, networking with more people with similar missions, and finding more people experiencing homelessness- especially our country’s homeless veterans! We have just finished our 13th delivery season. And now, it is Spring, and with the season, we must grow!

At The Sub Zero Mission, we call the energy and the motivation that fuels us “Blue Fire.”

We have been working hard to keep that fire growing and burning by adding new personnel, strengths, and energy. We have added 40 people to our team to focus on planning, staffing, and executing fundraisers. We call this team “The Bears.” We have worked with people in cities where we travel to grow their teams and, when possible, to take that next step towards having an ongoing outreach presence in their towns on the coldest nights when we are elsewhere.

Let’s talk about growth. Last year we took the HUGE step of purchasing the building that would be the home to our Mission. Accordingly we are building this coming year to grow the Mission to our goal of finding as many homeless veterans as possible and re-empowering them to get off the streets permanently! That’s right! We are adding 3,600 sq. ft. to our headquarters. This new space will allow us to double our warming item storage capacity, bring our delivery vehicles inside to protect them, and, in a pinch, act as a “pop-up” warming center should our county need us to. Creating this storage space will allow us to convert a section of our building into a treatment, training, and conference center used for our Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment Project that we intend to launch next year!

Please take the time to read and view our whole year-end report. I hope that you enjoy it, and I hope that it inspires you to see the Blue Fire that burns in your lives and my team’s compassionate souls! I hope that it lets you know that we are growing, changing, and pushing ourselves in ways that we hope make you proud to support us.

And, I hope that it inspires you to know that in a country as great as ours, we are not leaving our people in the streets and alleys cold, hungry, alone, and hopeless. Nobody should freeze to death in America. No veteran and no person. Nobody.

Thank you!

Our Goals

As with any company or team, we want to improve at The Sub Zero Mission. It is the reason that we hold ourselves accountable to the 20 Standards of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance Accreditation. High standards help us to set high goals for ourselves and help us find ways to measure, see how we are doing, and find ways to improve.

Our Board of Directors worked hard after our delivery season last year to create new goals. We also had to ask ourselves, “Are we doing enough with the goals we already have?” Together, we created a list of high-level goals and ways to measure our accomplishments. Our principles are as follows:

      • To Reach, Locate and Distribute to as many homeless people as we can
      • To Create a Culture of Safety
      • To Re-Empower, a Homeless Veteran
      • To Create a Culture of Diversity
      • To Motivate and Energize All of our Teams
      • To Fundraise for our Goals and Projects

Here are the goals we set and the metrics we put in place to measure our effectiveness!

To Reach, Locate and Distribute to As Many Homeless as We Can

Finding more people experiencing homelessness is our mission’s recurring, high-priority goal. What started as a single delivery under one bridge to two homeless veterans in one town has grown exponentially through our years of service since that night. This year we set a goal:

Deliver to 20 cities in 6 states

Deliver 17,500 warming items

Deliver at least 25 missions between December 1st and the first day of Spring

Chicago Meeting in Defiance

Chicago Meeting in Defiance

Our annual schedule usually will carry us into four states, working with known partners and guides. These states are Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan. To reach our six-state goal, we attempted to add a mission to Chicago, Il (we have served there one other time) and to Indianapolis, In. Sadly, our planned trip to Indianapolis was canceled due to the partner team with whom we were to work contracting COVID. COVID and COVID protocols in Chicago also caused us to cancel the planned trip to Chicago. This left us short of our goal of serving in six states.

Not to be defeated, we worked with our partners Social Works and Taste for the Homeless, to meet halfway and stuff their vehicles with as many warming items as it could hold. We met in Defiance, Ohio, and filled their vehicle!

At our Mission, we pride ourselves on chasing down every lead we receive to find people experiencing homelessness. We receive information from partner teams, tips through our website and social media, police departments, and many other sources. Below is an example of how we follow up on information provided to us:

Operations Chief, Brian "Top" Bonk

Operations Chief, Brian “Top” Bonk

According to our Operations Chief, Brian “Top” Bonk, 

“In January of 2022, I received an anonymous phone call at 4 pm when we were closing for the day. The person told me that there may be a homeless man at the Painesville laundromat on Richmond Street. Within minutes our team and I were on our way with warming items. As luck would have it, we found him quickly. When we arrived at the laundromat, a hungry and tired-looking man was wearing only shoes, jeans, and a hoodie and sitting alone inside. I walked around inside and saw no laundry being done by this individual and the man was dozing off. I had a feeling this was who I was called about.

I introduced myself as ‘Top’, as our team calls me, and asked if he was a veteran. I explained that I didn’t want anything from him, but I might have some warming items. He replied, ‘No.’ I then asked him his size and told him to stay in warm, and I’ll be right back. I walked out to our truck to grab a bag with a couple of hats, two pairs of gloves, hand warmers, and half a dozen socks. I also grabbed a tent, boots, a thick winter coat, and a sleeping bag. As I entered the laundromat, the man began to sob. He said he was just kicked out of a local shelter for drug use. He had no one to call and had nowhere to go. He couldn’t believe that I was going to just give him all these warming items. I talked to him for awhile, too. I gave him some local points of contact for possible sheltering and local feedings he could go to.” 

Create a Culture of Safety

In our work, there are many safety issues that we face. Everything from slippery ice conditions under our feet and tires to typical day-to-day activities in our office can introduce potential hazards. Add to those a large team of volunteers, some in their first year of service with us, and service to a population who may be using drugs, lacking sleep, suffering from hypothermia, or maybe criminals or prone to violence, and one can understand why we are always putting a premium on safety.

To prepare our delivery team, The Blue Coat Missionaries, our goal is to have 100% participation in our annual Training and Safety Course.

Safety Training & Corrective Action Requests

Safety TrainingWhen any member of The Sub Zero Mission encounters a safety issue, the team member is instructed to escalate this issue to their squad leader and the team Safety Officer. Depending on the risk or severity, the issue is reviewed among our leadership team, and a Corrective Action Request (CAR) is created. This will remain in “Open” status until a correction has been determined, the team has been communicated, or training has occurred.

Corrective Action Requests

We set a goal this year to have no open CARs at the end of our delivery season, the first day of Spring. CARS were opened for two safety issues this year. On one occasion, our team approached a homeless man in Cleveland. As the team approached, the homeless man brandished a knife. As is our protocol, our team immediately retreated to de-escalate, and we left the area. The incident was reported to our partner teams in NEOCH, and a CAR was opened internally. Upon review of the incident, we determined that further training for our team was our best course of action. The training was created, a video was created, and it was immediately distributed to the team and added to our annual training. This CAR was closed.

Potentially Dangerous Dog

Potentially Dangerous DogA second CAR was created after our Columbus trip. In a single camp, we encountered several safety issues. These include an area that was booby-trapped with barbed wire, another tent with a possibly dangerous dog in it, and, as we see more and more, numerous signs of drug use and the paraphernalia of used needles. Our internal safety review determined that these issues should be discussed for the remainder of the season in every pre-mission briefing. An additional training block or video will be added to our annual training. This CAR remains open.

The last two years have included the pandemic to add to the list of hazards. COVID-19 and its variants have wreaked havoc on every workplace, ours’ included. The homeless population is especially vulnerable to no medical help, unsanitary conditions, and a lack of items like hand sanitizers and masks. Our team must be conscious of this. We work not to catch the virus and not to be traveling super spreaders.

COVID Protocols

We have protocols for delivering in shelters, to camps, and from our vehicles. Using tables, ropes, and markers, we can create space between our team and those we serve. Additionally, we purchased over 100 home tests to ensure that our team could verify if their symptoms were COVID. Team members with symptoms were asked to ensure safety and switch shifts and missions with teammates.

COVID Protocols in the field

Re-Empower A Homeless Veteran

At The Sub Zero Mission, we help everybody that we find. Our fundamental mission, though, is to find veterans who are experiencing homelessness. When we find them, we work to get them back in touch with resources that they have earned through their service to our country. Ultimately, our long-term goal is to have a program in place that helps us not only find a temporary shelter for these men and women but to help re-empower them to be fully functioning members of our society. We are not ready for that yet, but incremental steps each year bring us closer to this goal. This year, however, we set a goal to find as many homeless veterans as possible and to get three of them off of the streets for the duration of the winter.

According to our, Veteran Director Tim Hickey,

Veteran Director, Tim Hickey

Veteran Director, Tim Hickey

 “This year, there were available funds from COVID relief, which allowed for hotel rooms for many homeless during the winter months. Still, we located and verified the status of 8 veterans in Lake and  Cuyahoga counties. Of these, we were able to connect two with permanent housing vouchers. One of them is now permanently housed! For the other, a condition for relief and assistance is to seek employment. As of this time, he has not found employment. One obstacle we find is the lack of available housing and landlords who will accept vouchers. Another obstacle is inspiring the homeless veterans to seek employment and the landlords on their own.

This past winter, we were able to network with local services to get 25% of the homeless veterans we encountered in Lake and Geauga permanent housing vouchers. Every homeless veteran has a unique situation. While every veteran off the street is a small victory, please know that we are far from satisfied. I am personally disappointed that we weren’t able to overcome every obstacle and help even more. We are putting in motion a much more comprehensive Veteran empowerment plan that will help to put an end to this epidemic. Stay tuned for the details, and thank you for this community’s support for our charity.”

From the beginning of this mission, my teammates and I have felt we were not doing enough. Many come from an environment where we preach, “no soldier is left behind.” And then, many nights, we go out on our missions and are forced to work in conflict with that creed. We hand our warming items, and we gather information with the intent of finding them again, but we drive off towards our warm homes and leave them behind. In 14 years of doing this, it has worn away at me. From our first mission in 2008, we have left people who have served our great country behind, alone and in the cold. We intend to change that soon.

Below, you can see the Product Diagram (high level) of our Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment Plan. We intend to build a program that helps us overcome some of the challenges we face when trying to home a homeless veteran. First, we must ensure that the veteran is qualified for our program and programs through the Veterans Administration. “Qualified” means that they are motivated to work and have a better life than the one we find them living, and we can verify their veteran status and discharge. We are looking for homeless veterans willing to be accountable to a program that will help them change their lives.

Program Diagram (High-Level)

Program Diagram (High-Level)

If the veteran experiencing homelessness is qualified, we must satisfy one of the lowest levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and find them food and shelter even if the solution is temporary. Temporary to permanent housing is a column of our program.

There can be no re-empowerment with addiction. Qualified candidates must be willing to live a sober lifestyle while in our program. The qualified candidate will voluntarily submit an initial drug and alcohol use assessment. If a treatment program is recommended, the veteran must be willing to participate in the recommended program actively.

After two decades of war, many service men and women return with PTSD and other mental illnesses. Many of the homeless veterans that we find are among this group. Some have never been assessed or treated. Many don’t follow their treatment plan or have access to medicines prescribed. Others enter into a cycle of self-medication using drugs and alcohol. This often leads to alienation of their family and friends, loss of employment, and, eventually, homelessness. Our program must include assessment and, if needed, treatment of mental illness.

Finally, we have solved the employment issue to keep the veteran in a home. This begins with a skills assessment. Some soldiers do not return to civilian life with skills directly translating into careers. Our program must have a temporary to permanent employment track. This includes training and retraining. Then, we will need to identify a pool of employers willing to take a chance on a veteran who may not be their “A Player” the first week, month, year, or ever.

Built-in as a sub-component to the program is transportation. One way that we plan to solve this is to provide a place for treatment in our facility. This means we will need to convert some of our current space to allow for training and treatment.

The cure for homelessness is a home. The keys to a home come through employment and financial independence. Employment is maintained through a healthy lifestyle, free from addiction and the pain caused by untreated mental health. An empowered veteran is housed, detoxified, and employed. We have a few more hurdles to clear before fully launching this program, but we plan to do more so that we never have to leave a fellow service member behind.

Create a Culture of Diversity

This year we updated our Diversity Policy for SZM. We value each volunteer, employee, and board member and recognize the value a diverse workforce provides. We know that diversity of perspective matters. Our goal is to hire and develop the best people we can find – basing our judgment on their job-related qualities. Sub Zero Mission measures itself by the quality of its mission work and the quality of the people who work and volunteer here. As a result of searching for different perspectives, Sub Zero Mission prioritized building the organization on a foundation of inclusion. We know that our unique collection of life experiences and varied personal perspectives allows our organization to better identify with and serve the needs of the homeless.

We discussed the vocabulary of our Diversity Policy during several Board meetings. We have an equal representation of men and women at SZM; however, we lack diversity of ethnic minorities throughout the organization and on the Board. We recognize that 54% of the population that we serve are African-American. African-Americans and other ethnic minorities are underrepresented at SZM. We are therefore taking affirmative steps to attain a more diverse workforce organically.

To implement the Diversity Policy, Sub Zero Mission will:

      • Recruit, hire, place, train, and promote persons in all job classifications without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, veteran status, gender identity, gender expression, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristic under applicable federal, state and local laws.
      • Base all employment and volunteer decisions on equal employment opportunity.

Ensure all personnel actions will be administered regardless of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, veteran status, disability, or any other distinction in all applicable federal and state laws.

Energizing our Team

“Charity fatigue” is a real thing. And, though our team prides itself in “doing it for the cause, not for the applause”, some work that we do can get mundane and feel thankless. Our charity has grown from a single delivery in 2008 to serving in 6 states and 22 cities in a single season. Last year, we delivered over 20,000 items.

Warming ItemsThe energy required to fundraise, recruit and train volunteers, address safety issues, deliver warming items, work with partner teams, and so many activities is immeasurable.

Charity fatigue leads to burnout. Burnout leads to attrition. Attrition leads to recruiting and training in an endless cycle. To break that cycle, this year, we worked to create an environment where we demonstrate our appreciation for our volunteers and employees, seek to build their skill sets, and work to recruit high-energy, compassionate teammates to fulfill our mission.

At The Sub Zero Mission, we call the energy and enthusiasm that keeps us going “Blue Fire.” And we are constantly seeking ways to spark and stoke that fire in our team. One of the easiest ways is to get our teams together and let the energy feed off one another. This year, we dedicated some funds to small pizza parties and get-togethers. We also recognized that many of our delivery team members were coming straight from their workplaces and getting onto our buses to go out and deliver until late at night without having a meal. To remedy that, we dedicated some of our funds to ensure that there was a meal ready for them when they arrived.

Another way to let a volunteer or employee know that they are valued is to invest in their skillset. To this end, we asked our core team members to review their roles and seek training that would help them improve in their roles.

Our Core Team attended both courses and events that included;

      • 2022 Cause Camp a 3-day Event
      • How to Write an Awesome Annual Report with Gratitude and Impact
      • Being a Great Board Member
      • Writing Good Thank, You’s
      • Safety Training (CPR Certified)

Fundraising for our Goals

Although The Sub Zero Mission has lower payroll and administrative costs than most charities, we still have expenses. We have four part time employees, numerous projects and large service area to deliver warming items.

According to our Director of Events and Fundraising, Karen Suttman, :

Karen Suttman

Director of Events and Fundraising, Karen Suttman,

“We had an amazing 2021 despite the many obstacles we worked to overcome. COVID not only challenged us with the ability to fundraise effectively, it also cost us a number of key leaders who lost their direct family members to the disease. These unfortunate incidents showed us our greatest strength, our team! While part of our team were focused with family emergencies, other member of our team stepped up and helped make 2021 one of our best fundraising years ever. We raised more money than ever before, collected more items and helped fund our new home and headquarters. In 2021 we learned a lot. We realized that our volunteer team was not organized enough nor large enough to meet the needs of our organization. That was the beginning of our new volunteer squad that launched in the beginning of 2022. All of the fundraisers are great! But, one accomplishment by our team stands out to me. It was our aggressive goal to collect 7,500 warming items. With several large spends for our new building and preparing for our storage and warming center expansion, funds were tight. Very tight. To offset these costs, our team decided that purchasing wholesale warming items would not be an option while still focusing on reaching as far as we could. Instead, we would collect in our donation drives. This was a HUGE success and led us to our biggest distribution season. Over 10,000 of the 22,000 items we handed out were from these donation drives!

According to our Treasure, Shane Hajjar:

Shane Hajjar is Treasurer for the Sub Zero Mission

Treasurer, Shane Hajjar

“In all, Our Events and Fundraising Team raised well over 100k. Golf Outing $13k, Motorcycle Run $10k, Deerassic Classic $14k, Mentor Rocks $6k many other well attended smaller events, each bringing support and donations.

We also received substantial financial support from numerous VFWs around the state and beyond, United Way, Battelle, Network for Good, Chardon High School, Progressive, Ohio Ordinance, The Washkewicz Family Foundation, Furniture Warehouse, Bob and Linda Gandee, Craft and Antique Co-op to name a few.

We are so proud of our team for helping raise nearly $380k through donations, events, grants, and our excellent SZM merchandise.

And, through strong efforts on our stuff-the-bus collection of warming items, strategic mission planning, and other value-minded efforts, we held our expenditures to just under $200k.

This diligent, hard-working team helped to pave the way to finally being able to build our garage and get the buses out of the elements.

I am very proud to serve this mission alongside so many caring and committed volunteers!”

Other Updates for our Mission

Mission Warmth

Please welcome our new partner team in Columbus, Mission Warmth! Every year our team tries to push farther and find more people. Years ago, we met a man named Cris Damo, who took us around Columbus to find and help people experiencing homelessness. Sadly, Cris was taken to the Lord the following Summer.

But, his spirit of compassion lived on in his friend Greg Eckert, Cris’ wife Elaine, and his children. It inspired our team, too. We carried our mission there for one trip each season since!

We all knew that the one trip each year barely scratched the surface in Columbus. They wanted to do more!
Every year at the end of the Columbus mission, we talked a little more about how to stand up a permanent team modeled from our own. Each year we took another step closer. This year, THEY DID IT!

Already, they have their 501c3 designation! Some good person has already donated a bus! THEY ARE ON THEIR WAY!

We of The Sub Zero Mission are proud to introduce our newest allies in this fight to help the homeless and find homeless veterans. Please welcome Mission Warmth!

Over the coming months, we will offer periodic updates on their progress. As they build their infrastructure, we ask our followers near and far to please help this team! We travel to 20-25 cities per year. Columbus has the most camps and worst conditions in camps that we see!


Years ago, our team was leaving an event, and we noticed something disturbing. Laying on the ground and in many of the garbage receptacles, we saw many of our paper marketing materials. It wasn’t very pleasant because paper materials, flyers, stickers, and other items are expensive. We began to toss around ideas about how to get our message out in a way that people don’t just throw away.

As fate would have it, I was unpacking some boxes of items that I packed years ago, before going into the service. One of them was filled with old books. As I looked through the books, some had comic books that I had placed in them to protect them. This led to the idea to embed our advertising in a graphic novel while providing compelling story.

The Blue Coat Missionary and Shivers are back to take on some of Death’s most fierce cohorts in his evil army as they fight for the life of our combat hero, David.

Created by The Sub Zero Mission, The Blue Coat Missionary encapsulates our goal to fend off Death and prevent homeless casualties in America by providing life-saving items during the winter months.

This is a story that shows how a veteran can go from war, to PTSD to drugs and alcohol and, eventually, to homelessness. And, it is a story of hope!


Veterans’ Court

Our team finds a lot of people in the woods. Depending on what sources you use, there are somewhere between 37,000 and 50,000 homeless veterans. Part of our mission is to help get veterans off of the street permanently. By the time we find them, they are at their lowest. And, it is a hard pull to get them into temporary housing and it is often difficult to keep them there.

What if there was a way to catch some of these veterans before the reached rock bottom? Before every back was turned on them? Before alcohol, drugs or mental health issues brought them to streets and alleys? This year, we found out there is a way.

The Sub Zero Mission joined forces with Willoughby Municipal Court. This specialized docket offers services directed at the unique needs of veterans, including peer to peer mentoring, drug and alcohol counselling, mental health and other things that might eventually drive a veteran to homelessness.

We thank The Ohio Supreme Court, Judge Marisa Cornachio and The Willoughby Municipal Court for the opportunity to break the fall of many of these veterans. We are honored for the chance to mentor and help in this unique way!

In Summary

We are proud of our work here at The Sub Zero Mission. We all wish it weren’t necessary, but we are happy to do it. Having served in the military and been to a few places that lack our freedoms, resources, and spirit of unity, I honestly believe we have the greatest country on the planet. But, we still have faults, areas to improve, and things that should be focused on and fixed immediately. Homelessness in general and how we let our veterans fall through the cracks and down to the streets needs to be fixed immediately.

Our team worked hard this past year to reach our goals. And the goals were set to align with American values. Finding our homeless brothers and sisters, getting our veterans off of the streets permanently and guiding them to recovery and building teams like ours, and working towards a diverse and unified team are not only how we want to be as teammates at our Mission, but who we believe we should be as Americans. We went as far as we could go. We helped build teams with similar mission statements. We added diversity to our teams at every chance. We worked together to make safety our priority. And we found and warmed many people experiencing homelessness and got a few veterans pointed back in the right direction.

All of this said, as the CEO of The Sub Zero Mission, I promise you, our faithful supporters, this. WE WILL NOT STOP. WE WILL NOT REST ON OUR LAURELS. Please stay tuned as this year progresses for news on how we are finding ways to store more warming items, protect our buses and other equipment, and look for details of our coming Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment Program. As we finish converting our headquarters to serve the homeless population better, we plan to turn with laser focus to getting homeless veterans off the streets and onto a treatment plan where needed for mental health and alcohol and chemical dependencies. Working with local businesses and various treatment resources, we plan to help our veterans become functioning members of our communities and society again. We owe it to them. NOBODY SHOULD FREEZE TO DEATH IN AMERICA.

Thank you for taking the time to catch up on our Mission! We can’t do any of this without you and your support!