CEO Report

 

Hello!

I am Al “Sarge” Raddatz. I am one of the founders of The Sub Zero Mission, and it has been my privilege to serve as its Chief Executive Officer for the past 15 years.


I write an annual report for our volunteers, board members, supporters, and donors. It is usually in the Spring after we have completed our final outreach missions to find people experiencing homelessness. I am writing the report a little earlier than most years this year. Our goal is always to serve those in need until we run out of supplies or until the first day of Spring. This year, the weather turned more quickly, and we started to feel the warmth of Spring earlier than in years past. As our fleet of vehicles was all in need of attention, we chose to end our season early and avoid risking our buses or putting our team at risk.
With that said, it was still a hectic year for us. In fact, in many ways, it was our biggest year ever. In homeless outreach, there is seldom much to celebrate. But there is something to be said for teams like ours, filled with people who dedicate their spare time to helping others. The hours, the materials, the miles… These can all be measured and used to tell a story of compassion in a time when we don’t always see this in our country.
We have a great story to tell! Anybody who follows me on social media or knows me in person knows how proud I am of my team. From the people who plan our events and fundraisers to those who staff and run them to the ones who go out at night and into the camps, everybody works hard and is infused with what we call “Blue Fire.” To honor them, we put that blue fire on every vehicle, and once a year, I get to tell the whole story.

Today is that day!

OnTheRoad

Please take a few minutes to read what we did this year! We went farther. We found more. We pushed harder. And, though there are no great movements without some friction, we helped more people than in any other year since that first delivery under a bridge in Painesville, Ohio.

Thank you for your time and for caring enough to read our story!

Sarge

Fiscal Year Changes

This year, our Mission changed our fiscal year to match better the services we provide and when we provide them. This allows us to report more accurately to our donors and supporters instead of splitting our incoming donations and outgoing supplies during our outreach season.

While we receive contributions throughout the summer months related to our events calendar, most donations come between October and March. Our outreach also begins around December 1st each year. By changing our fiscal year from April 1st to March 31st, we can more cleanly show Income vs. Spending. This allows us to forecast funding better, develop budgets, and determine when to launch various projects throughout the year.

Please note that our website will post two IRS Form 990s this year. One is for a short filing year; the other will represent the abovementioned period as our new fiscal year filing.

Another benefit of this change is that we can map our agenda for our Annual Meeting and each additional Board of Directors meeting to align with the larger team’s activities. We can provide the whole story during accreditation cycles and reviews instead of pulling data split between the current calendar year and the prior year. Better agendas lead to better planning, leading to better execution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comings and Goings

In our November Board of Directors meeting, Del Bethel announced his intent to resign from our Board.

Del is a founding member of The Sub Zero Mission, and his presence, sense of humor, and passion for our Mission will be missed in every future Board of Directors meeting. During his tenure as Chairman of the Board, Del has been involved in and led many aspects of our growth.

What started as a few friends delivering coats under a bridge has grown into a multi-team operation that delivered 30k items throughout seven states this year. Del has helped us grow our fleet of delivery vehicles, led a squad of Winter outreach workers, and contributed to our ability to purchase and upgrade our headquarters facility, including raising nearly $2.5M since we started.

Del will not leave our Mission; he thought it was time to focus on the parts he loves the most. He will continue to deliver warming items to people experiencing homelessness, work at our fundraisers, and take on the vital role of Mission Coordinator, which includes duties of collaborating with our partner outreach teams, arranging for guides in other cities that we visit, ensuring that we have adequate staffing for missions and, making sure the team is fed and that radios, flashlights, waivers, and other mission-critical needs are fulfilled.

Thank you, Del, for your time and energy on our Board of Directors all these years. Thank you for finding a new way to help us!

The Sub Zero Mission is excited and proud to announce the addition of Ron Marotto as The Chairman of our Board of Directors!

Ron MarottoRon has spent the last 45 years in senior and executive leadership roles at the second-largest automobile insurance company in the US. He believes great leaders motivate others to perform, create, innovate, and grow. They remove barriers, provide honest and constructive feedback, and hold themselves to the same high standards they expect from the people they lead. Great leaders continuously hone and refine their skills. He retired at the end of 2023 but intends to continue refining his skills.
Ron is passionate about his causes. He has been active with the Summit County and the Ohio Developmental Disabilities communities for his adult life, serving on many boards and committees. He’s a past Board member of the NEO American Diabetes Association and Business Volunteers Unlimited. He is also a past Board Member and Chair for Walsh Jesuit High School. He has served on committees for Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Cleveland, ECity, and Breakthrough Schools. He has driven fundraising and Capital Improvement projects for Purple Hearts Homes, Waterloo Arts District, Rebuilding Together, End 68 Hours of Hunger of Lake County, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Cleveland, Hitchcock Center for Women, The Sub Zero Mission, and many others.

Ron has always lived in Northeast Ohio. He grew up in Akron and Cuyahoga Falls and currently resides in Hudson. He received his BS in Electrical Engineering from The University of Akron and has been married to JeriLynn for 43 years. He has three adult children, Michael (Sarah), Sarah (Charlie), and Anthony (Bianca), and five amazing grandchildren, Gabby, Vince, Addie, Hank, and Sonny.

Our team and our Mission have grown significantly over the years, but we know that there are more ways to help, more places to go, and another level at which we will operate. We believe that Ron can help us achieve our goals.

Please join us in welcoming Ron to our Mission!

Creating a Culture of Safety

At work, we face many safety issues.

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 that a large team of volunteers, some in their first year of service with us, and service to a population that may be using drugs, lacking sleep, suffering from hypothermia, criminals, or prone to violence, and one can understand why we always put a premium on safety.

To prepare our delivery team, The Blue Coat Missionaries, we aim for 100% participation in our annual Training and Safety Course.

Other safety-related small projects from this season included:

  • Addition of lighting on our east parking lot at HQ
  • A fire and smoke alarm was added to our building
  • Fire Safety plans for all areas of the building were designed and posted
  • Added ten high-visibility coats to the outreach team equipment

Annual Training

Like any team that wants to be the best at what they do, we continue to train because what we do is not always safe. This year’s training was the best we have ever conducted! Puncture wound treatment, sprains and breaks, drug overdose, situational awareness, de-escalation, and treating frostbite and hypothermia were all high-priority topics. Subject matter experts were contracted for topics that might help a member of our team or the many people experiencing homelessness whom we serve.

Our training goal was 100% participation, which we met. We provided the video link since everyone could not attend the training on the original date.

Corrective Action Requests (CARS)

When members of The Sub Zero Mission encounter a safety issue, they are instructed to escalate it to their squad leader and the team Safety Officer. Depending on the risk or severity, the issue is reviewed by 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.

We set a goal every year to have no open CARs at the end of our delivery season, the first day of Spring. CARS was opened for eight safety issues this year.
We DID NOT MEET our goal to have all CARs closed.

Corrective Action Requests:

15 June 23: Identified safety hazard of personnel walking around buses while moving in and out of the garage.
Action taken: Training on the new policy of either being on the bus or remaining in the bluecoat area while buses are being moved was provided. Signs with the new policy were also hung.

15 June 23: No handrail or stair tread on the stairs going up makes it a slip hazard to bear cave.
Action Taken: No railing due to the narrow staircase, however, stair treads installed to prevent slips.

15 June 23: Moving vehicles in and out of the garage can be nerve-racking due to the minimal space between the bus and garage door frame.
Action taken: All drivers were trained on the new policy, and signage was posted requiring a ground guide when vehicles moved in and out of the garage.

15 August 23: The identified East side of the building has no lighting outside during dark hours. We periodically have meetings, missions, vehicles left unattended on that side of the building, and personnel who exit the building during dark hours.
Action taken: Photocell lights and a 360-degree camera were installed for lighting and security.

1 January 24: Summer wind back door could come open in motion due to rough roads, bouncing around, or someone leaning against them.
Action taken: A bungee and eye hook were installed to hold down the latch/handle. It seems to have worked; however, a secondary safety bar should be installed across both doors.

22 January 24: Working on busses inside the garage during winter time, when running, the exhaust fumes can build up and trip our carbon monoxide alarm (which it did).
Action taken: A mobile exhaust fan and 32′ hose were purchased to route exhaust fumes outside by opening the garage door.

30 January 24: Complaints of exhaust fumes in the rear cabin of summer wind.
Action taken: Switches in the back were found to be faulty, and the boots did not turn on the small exhaust fan. Also, we are looking into extending the exhaust to a rear exit. STATUS OPEN

30 January 24: Drivers look at their phones for locations on missions because their GPS is outdated or not updated with current information.
Action taken: New dashboard display units were purchased and will be uploaded with a repository of pinned SZM locations and updated regularly.

Open CARs Goal MET – Currently, there are one out of fourteen open CARs.

Bus Maintenance, Upgrades, and Repairs

Our Fleet consists of a retired Ohio Fire Marshall command center (The Summer Wind), a long bus (The Pamela Dawn), an all-purpose Topkick truck (Fury), pulls a 16ft trailer (Cool Breeze), and, sometimes, in the trailer, we have our side by side 4×4 (Scrape). We are primarily military people… We name everything! When something has a name, people bond to that bond, which leads to better care and maintenance.

The fleet is arguably our most important asset outside our team members. Each vehicle is modified to work in certain terrains, situations, and distances from our headquarters.

Our “offseason” is often filled with small projects for the vehicles peppered into calendar gaps around our Summer Event schedule. Last Summer, some small projects turned into larger ones. One example is our lengthy bus rust repairs. What started as repairing a few rust spots turned into a complete replacement of body panels and the underlying attachment grid with aluminum instead of steel. A budget of $3000 ballooned to $12,000 with paint and lettering.

See pictures from the project:


Status Light Goal

We monitor the statuses of “the big three” vehicles with a whiteboard with a picture of a stop light representing each vehicle. Our goal each year is to be on the first day of Spring with a “green light” status on all vehicles. Any non-start, high possibility of breakdown, potential of further or permanent damage to the car, or any safety issue will put the vehicle into “red light.” A “yellow light” will indicate maintenance issues and minor items needing to be addressed.

We MET our Bus Status Goal, with 3 of 3 of the main three vehicles being green-lit to end the delivery season.

This year, we pushed ourselves and our vehicles harder and farther than any year since our inception. We put our vehicles through Hell. Our Motor T Team is among our Mission’s most vital and closest teams. While we may have met the goal, we have a lot of work to do in our “off-season” to address various maintenance and repair items. I can count on our team to prepare these vehicles for the next season!

Discussions with our team gave us the following findings to be worked on in the off-season:

  • We failed to engage fully at the “100 Day Mark.” This is the August 23rd date, which means we are 100 days from our first deployment. During this period, we work to periodically get our team back into Headquarters for training and maintenance activities. Our entire Blue Coat Missionary (Outreach and Delivery) team will meet on this date each year in the future. This will allow us to identify those remaining items to prepare for the season.
  • Our Motor T team has two diesel mechanics. One of the mechanics could not participate in our delivery season due to personal reasons, which put an inordinate amount of work on the remaining mechanics. We must bring two more mechanics specializing in our vehicles onto our team.
  • The many missions we performed this year greatly strained an aging fleet. While some things might have been spotted during preventative maintenance, many were the product of “climb and place.” We go where many people do not. Bad roads, big bumps, cold temperatures, long and short missions, and starting and stopping all take a toll. We will maintain and harden our fleet in the offseason.

Our command center, “Summer Wind,” will need some upgrades in the ground team portion. This includes:

  • Hold bars to help with balance while turning
  • The crewman door has a broken closing mechanism
  • The bench seat requires some shock absorption solution
  • All corners of equipment should be covered with corner padding
  • The rail along the stairwell should be modified to allow for better use and leverage
  • The foot rail should be raised
  • Seating should allow for some recline
  • Rear double doors need to be modified for security while in motion, but use for areas where man door is not a safe option (it is on the driver’s side).
  • Several electrical issues need to be addressed

Observational Safety While on Mission

This year, I went on every Mission. I was able to observe personally, note training issues that did not need to be addressed immediately, find teachable moments for squad leaders and drivers, and ensure that safety issues encountered were properly noted and addressed with priority.

Breakdowns are one of the more dangerous situations for us. We are typically out when the weather is the worst. The visibility is poor. We took every opportunity that we could to practice roadside safety measures. We discussed scenarios where it might be safer to be in the vehicle and when to evacuate the team. This training paid off on our return trip from Chicago when our truck had mechanical issues on the freeway.

Blue Fire! Blue Fire!

Not every delivery goes smoothly. Not every person we encounter wants to see us. Not every place we go is safe. We can enter a situation and feel secure, but the problem can change quickly. We have learned through the years that sometimes, we return to our vehicle and go.

Every person on our team is empowered to recognize a safety issue and call a mission stop. In the field, we use our code word “Blue Fire” to contact our team to action. If this is heard on the radio or by word of mouth, it means getting back into the vehicle and reporting it to the mission lead. The mission lead will assess the situation and decide whether to redeploy or exit the area.

This is from Chicago. We did not know, but before we arrived, there had been an altercation in a bread line between local people experiencing homelessness and a group of illegal immigrants. At around the 12-minute mark, it reignites.
Not knowing if this would escalate or become a gunfight, our team called our rally word, and we packed up and left. Unbeknownst to us at the time, our partner team was creating online content at the time, and the situation is available for review. Our team reviewed this together, and we were able to identify several safety improvement opportunities. These were used as a team-wide teachable moment and added to our permanent training.

The safety of our team takes precedence. Here is the video:

Bus Breakdown Training Pays Off!

Veterans Helping Veterans
It says it on the side of every one of our vehicles.
It has meaning for other veterans.

We were returning from Chicago recently and ran into some engine or transmission trouble that forced us to the side of the road in a hazardous area. We got the triangles and flares out, but the trucks were still hammered by us close, and we even snapped one of our triangles at the base.

Scott Trost, a 30-year Army veteran, went by us and knew he had to help due to the dangerous spot.

I was inside the vehicle when I saw him pull up behind us. I asked him if we needed to move further off the road.

He said, “I was plowing the other lane when I saw the side of your vehicle said, ‘Veterans Helping Veterans.’ I thought I better come and check things out.”

Scott acted as the world’s biggest road flare for us and protected our vehicle until our second truck returned to our mechanic.

“Our guys aren’t far off. You don’t have to wait,” I said.

“No way. Veterans don’t leave veterans behind,” he said.

No. No, they don’t, Scott. I feel the same way!

 

Before Scott’s arrival, I was immensely proud of our team. We communicated well on our radios, and we all knew where the safety equipment was. We used our training to pull to safety, calmly deploy our safety equipment, and assess the situation. This was all covered in our annual training and several times throughout the season in pop-up training modules.

Outreach

Find and Provide Outreach to As Many People Experiencing Homelessness as We Can

The 2023 Point-in-Time (PIT) count is the highest number of people reported experiencing homelessness on a single night since reporting began in 2007″- US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2023 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report.

I read that line in the HUD Report on February 27th when a teammate shared it. I thought, “Wait until they see the report for this year.” Every senior member of our outreach team said the same thing during the season. We have seen more people homeless than in any year since we started The Sub Zero Mission in the winter of 2008/2009. The full report is posted below.

National data can be found here. The Housing and Urban Development Department provides this report: The 2023 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR to Congress) Part 1: Point-In-Time Estimates of Homelessness, December 2023 (huduser.gov).

Our team had a goal this year to operate at a new level. To go farther than we ever have.To go to new cities and new states. We set a goal to serve in 7 states. We MET THE GOAL. We served in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, and New York. This year, we did not go to Lansing, Michigan, on our usual Detroit/Lansing/Toledo leg. We added Kent, Conneaut, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and three small towns in Kentucky, and we returned to Chicago. We went to 23 different cities. Many of them more than once.

Other goals that we met or exceeded (Goal/Actual):

  • Miles Travelled 5000/6660
  • Warming Items Delivered: 25,000/30,058
  • Donated Volunteer Hours 1500/1750

Our outreach and Delivery Team

(The Blue Coat Missionaries) are 42 dedicated people. Our teams fix the buses, go into the woods and alleys, provide medical assistance, and perform other duties. They go out in the worst weather and give up numerous nights and weekends with family and friends.

From me to them, THANK YOU. With over 48 missions this year, travels into 7 states, and logging over 6700 miles, this team EXCEEDED every goal I could have had for them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News From Our Partner Teams in Youngstown and Columbus

“To say this year was more difficult than others is an understatement. We served a record number of people in need, reaching 3,600 people, and now we are finding children and families, which is heart-wrenching.”

One of our most difficult distributions this year was our Pittsburgh trip. Our guide for the past 6 years passed away last Spring, and we hadn’t found out until we got there that after years of suffering from a terrible accident, he was found dead in a crack house. His heart for the homeless was amazing; he was a minister in a Veteran’s shelter, and he told everyone about how Jesus could redeem them from their addiction, only to end up using it to kill the pain, and it overtook him as well. We helped over 100 people that day.

The picture is of one of our regular stops there—Suicide Hill, is what it’s called. We saw things there we had never seen before, which still haunt my mind.

Drug abuse is at a high there, yet people are still grateful for our help no matter where we go.

It is hard to see people at one of the lowest points in their lives coming to you looking like there is no hope. We give them the warming items they need and offer prayers if they want (which they usually do). When they leave us, we see smiles and a spark of happiness on their faces, along with a thank you for doing this. It makes it all worth doing what we do.

Now, we take a short break, raise money for next season, and look forward to the day when what we do is no longer needed. Until then, we pray for those who make an imprint on our hearts.”

– Patty Summers, Youngstown Blue Coats.

Fury Joins the Fight!

Going into the season, we knew we would need at least one more vehicle to meet or exceed our distribution goals. We had retired a pickup truck last year, but we needed something. We looked all Summer and into the Fall before finding something that met our requirements.

It had to have enough room in a crew cab to fit at least 4 people plus a driver. It had to be able to plow and pull a trailer; it had to be able to carry large loads covered, and, finally, it had to be able to be served from the outside. It had to have outside lockable boxes. We go into some tough areas. Our larger vehicles aren’t an option. Any distance not covered by vehicle must be covered by foot. This can lead to injuries and lost time spent finding people in need.

And then, there she was! In Michigan. WAY INTO MICHIGAN.

Due to the addition of this vehicle, we estimate that we were able to find and reach at least 100 additional people experiencing homelessness this year.
Welcome to the team, Fury! We are going to do a lot of good with you! Special thanks to The Osborne Charitable Trust, whose generous donation made this vehicle possible for us.

An Outreach Story to Warm the Heart

We almost went home. We almost didn’t help her—not because we didn’t want to, but because it was getting so late.

When the team met, we talked about getting downtown, helping whoever we could find, and helping people in our hometown on our way back to base. This year, there are so many more homeless people, and when we got downtown, we found more people who needed help. And then it got late. Out of consideration for the team members who must work the next morning, we said, “Let’s call it!” We intended to head back to HQ, but it was too late, and the second town would have to reschedule.

On the way home, I looked at the weather forecast. It was going to get colder. And it would be five days, at least before we could reschedule due to our other scheduled missions. Our lead that night and I agreed: We had to go back out.

One of the things I am most proud of with my team is their selflessness. They were willing to be a little tired the next day. We found two other people before we found her. They both needed our warming items, but she was the one God had kept us

out for.

I was with one-half of our team searching in the woods in one area while a second team searched a nearby area. I heard it on our radio: “We got one. One female.” We finished our search and met back at the bus. Two of the other search team members seemed very concerned. “Sarge, I don’t feel right. I’m just leaving stuff next to her. She wouldn’t respond to us. She may have been on something, but she is hardly covered.” Looking at the two of them, I could tell they agreed.

Another thing I am most proud of with my team is their empathy. They would not just leave her. So, we decided to take the extra step of bundling and covering her. I am so glad that we did because I am sure that she would have frozen.

The reality of what we do means that there are a lot of reasons somebody, especially a female experiencing homelessness, might not respond to us. Alcohol and drug use are things we see a lot. But street homelessness for a female is tough in other ways. Assault is a daily risk. Some homeless people play possum to be left alone. We were not sure that night. But we are sure that we did the right thing. We know that God put us right where we were meant to be.

Re-empower a Homeless Veteran

Our team was started by veterans. The first two people we found and served were veterans. Our focus will always be on veterans. Each night, we go out for outreach; we help every person experiencing homelessness. When we find veterans among them, we work to get them off the streets for good.

“One of the VA’s measurements for homelessness is a yearly one-night census. The number of veterans experiencing homelessness rose by 7.4% in 2023 from the previous year, according to the VA” – Stars and Stripes.

Our Director of Veteran Services is Tim Hickey. Tim says, “Our dedicated team has been working tirelessly to locate and assist homeless veterans, providing them with the resources and support they need to reintegrate into society.

This year, we were able to locate six homeless veterans. Three of these individuals did not qualify for services through the VA due to their discharge status of Other Than Honorable (OTH) or Dishonorable. One of the located individuals was a reservist who, according to the VA definition, did not meet the criteria of a veteran as they did not serve on active duty.

Of the two remaining veterans we located, both were honorably discharged and eligible for VA services. Unfortunately, we lost contact with these individuals. Despite our best efforts, our outreach network could not follow up due to a lack of location information and no return calls.”

Since the beginning of The Sub Zero Mission, we have known that the problem of providing services to people experiencing homelessness was getting the items directly to the people who need them. We learned quickly that we were showing up at shelters months apart and stacking warming items on top of things we had provided on our last visit. The direct delivery of the warming was needed. The problem with veteran services is much the same. The Veterans Administration is full of great programs. It also has many great people waiting to help. The problem exists between the person staying at a desk in the VA and the place where a homeless veteran is hunkered down. Somebody must fill that space. When you hear about the “cracks in the system,” this distance is one of them. Sometimes, the veteran gives up on the VA. Sometimes, the VA is not willing to perform direct outreach.

During our early years, we used to report the veteran information to a VA representative and then wait for a callback. Sometimes, we would receive a prompt response, but more often than not, it would take a long time. After that, we would arrange a meeting with the VA representative and drive them to the agreed-upon location where we planned to meet with the homeless veteran. We usually brought along some food to encourage the veterans to attend the meeting. Unfortunately, we often lost contact with the homeless veterans after finding them.

“It’s disheartening when we lose contact with those we are trying to help. But every setback is a setup for a comeback. We are learning from these experiences and are committed to improving our approach,” says Tim Hickey.

“Undeterred by these challenges, we are excited to announce the launch of our Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment program later this year. We will ‘officially’ launch the program on Veterans Day. It will be in effect for our 2024/2025 Outreach Season. This initiative will focus on immediate, in-person contact the morning after identification or bringing the veterans back to our headquarters the same night. This approach will ensure continued contact and provide a more effective means of support. We believe that our new Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment Program will be a meaningful change. By establishing immediate and consistent contact, we can better serve our veterans and help them on their journey to reintegration. We remain committed to our mission and will continue to adapt and improve our strategies to serve our veterans better. We look forward to our new program’s positive impact in the coming year.”

Planning for our Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment Program began several years ago. We began our planning knowing that the cure for homelessness is a home. A home cannot be purchased or rented long-term without some form of work and/or steady income. A job cannot be held if a person cannot find transportation to and from and if the person is suffering from symptoms of drug and/or alcohol use or has untreated mental health issues. Not only do we plan to help find homeless veterans, but we plan to be their guide and advocates on the path back to sobriety, clean mental health, and a home.

Lisa Sprowls is our Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment Project Coordinator. Per Lisa, “I was very honored to have been asked to be a part of the team to create the Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment Program from the ground up. I’m proud of the work our team has done, as it is a vital part of assisting veterans to get off the street and back to being a functioning member of our communities. Drug, alcohol, and mental health are the caveat to many veterans being homeless. After the recent death of a close personal friend who was a veteran due to mental health issues, this program has given me more meaning and purpose for the overall success.”

Tim, Lisa, I, and everyone involved in our mission believe that bringing veterans home from war is only half the battle. Nobody is truly home until they have a home. Because of this, we feel that our Homeless Veteran Re-Empowerment plan is essential.

Fundraising for our Goals

Our Mission has grown so much through the years. What started as a few friends delivering items from their garages with their vehicles has grown into a HUGE mission. The most significant part of our growth has occurred since 2018. The Mission now has a fleet of three vehicles. We own our headquarters and, last year, expanded the footprint by 3600 square feet (about the area of a tennis court) with a new garage. Our missions this year resulted in deliveries to 23 cities in 7 states. We delivered over 30,000 warming items. Our 2023/2024 Outreach and Delivery Season budget was $135,000. Including vehicle maintenance, new vehicle purchases, building and maintenance projects, training costs, and employee salaries, our budget can seem overwhelming when you consider that we are nearly 100% donation-driven.

Our goals for the Mission have been high. And so have our fundraising goals.

This year, our goal was to raise $300,000 through fundraising efforts. We also wanted to raise $110,000 (10,000 items) in our “Stay Alive 5” physical donations- hats, coats, boots, gloves, and sleeping bags. These items have a value recommendation from The Salvation Army Donation Value Guide https://satruck.org/Home/DonationValueGuide. Our SA5 averages around $11 per item.

Our fundraising calendar varies from year to year. However, we hold several fundraisers annually. These are our Annual Reverse Raffle, Motorcycle Run, Golf Outing, Painesville Party in the Park, The Deerassic Classic, and Bowl for the Mission events. Other events include pancake breakfasts, dance-offs, and October events in schools. We perform 50 Stuff the Bus Events for warming items.

The results of the event schedule can be seen below. We exceeded our goal for warming items donated, and 25,000 items were donated to us. Instead of using the average of the donations, we tried to value the individual items. We estimate ~$ $135,000 in value. We could EXCEED our Fundraiser’s Goal of $150,000 by raising $163,000.

Event Date held Collected/ Raised
Golf outing 9/14/2023 $27,000.00
Reverse Raffle 4/22/2023 $26,000.00
Amazon Delivery Day 11/10/2023 $20,000.00
Amazon Delivery Day 11/21/2023 $20,000.00
Party in the Park 7/14 – 7/16/2023 $13,000.00
Parker Hannifin – Mayfield and Akron 11/8/2023 $13,000.00
Deerasic 8/4 – 8/5/2023 $12,000.00
Bike Run 6/25/2023 $8,000.00
Bowl for the Mission 11/4/2023 $5,597.00
Ware Industries – Twinsburg 11/8/2023 $3,500.00
Sassy’s Bar and Grill 7/15 – 7/16/2023 $3,274.00
Jeanne’s Joynt- STB 10/14/2023 $1,507.61
Ohio Contractors Association 12/1/2023 $1,450.00
Community Church Pancake Breakfast 3/6/2023 $1,300.00
NEO Miniacs by Sportsterz 7/22/2023 $1,260.00
Community Church Pancake Breakfast 10/7/2023 $1,025.00
Parker Hannifin – Elyria 11/1/2023 $579.00
Chardon Football 12/6/2023 $543.00
Buffalo Bills Backers 12/10/2023 $500.00
Riverside Youth Football – STB 10/1/2023 $425.00
Platinum Real Estate 11/11/2023 $400.00
VFW Auxiliary 12/3/2023 $300.00
Sassy’s Bar and Grill bike run 8/27/2023 $250.00
Lutheran Women in Mission 9/23/2023 $248.00
Daughter of the Revolution 12/2/2023 $248.00
Robyn Gattozzi 12/16/2023 $202.00
Parker Hannifin – Erie, PA 11/2/2023 $176.00
Faith Lutheran Church 10/28/2023 $175.00
Open House – Drive through 10/14/2023 $150.00
Hemley Hardware, Girl Scouts – STB 10/7/2023 $125.00
D & S Automotive – STB 10/12/2023 $55.00
Willoughby Methodist – STB 10/15/2023 $41.90
Riverview Elementary – Graham 11/13/2023 $40.00
PCC Airfoils 11/15/2023 $31.00
Parker Hannifin – Wickliffe and Mentor 10/25/2023 $28.00
YMCA trunk or treat – Pville 10/24/2023 $8.00
Stuff the store 10/28/2023 $0.00
Dominion Energy – NE Ohio 11/9/2023 $0.00
Stuff the store 11/25/2023 $0.00
Qualigence/Billy’s STB 12/18/2023 $500.00
Geauga SportsFest 9/9/2023
The SHOP – STB 10/8/2023
Parkview Walk- a thon 10/12/2023
Mentor High School 10/20/2023
YMCA trunk or treat – Willoughby 10/26/2023
Walker Flooring 11/11/2023
American Legion 11/12/2023
Patriot Store 11/18/2023
Edwins restaurant 11/18/2023
JFS – STB 11/29/2023
Total raised $162,938.51

 

The Bears

Our E&F Team, aka The Bears, staffs our events and fundraisers. We started this team only two years ago. At last count, there were nearly 82 people on the team. This team worked together and donated over 1,200 hours of their time.

Sometimes, volunteering can feel less rewarding when volunteers do not directly see the result of their efforts. Our outreach team is “right-sized.” There is not always an opportunity to volunteer in the winter. Currently, we have 10-15 people who serve on both teams.

The fact of the matter is that we can’t help one person or move our machines an inch without the selfless efforts of our Bears team. We don’t collect the needed items, and we don’t have the money to purchase them, either. Our Bears team is the team that carries the torch of “Blue Fire,” the energy that our team runs on, to ignite everything that we do!

I am incredibly grateful and proud of this team.

We have just finished our Outreach and Delivery Season, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting ready for three fundraising seasons!

Here are the dates of events that are known now!

Upcoming In 2024:
6/1/24 – Reverse Raffle at LaVera Party Center
6/23 /24 – Motorcycle Run
7/19 – 7/21 – Party in the Park
8/2 – 8/3 – Deerasic
9/27 – Golf Outing
11/2 – Bowl for the Mission

Creating a Culture of Diversity

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. The 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. Our unique collection of life experiences and varied personal perspectives allows our organization to better identify with and serve the needs of people experiencing homelessness.

We discussed the vocabulary of our Diversity Policy during several Board meetings. We have 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 is 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.

How Diversity Helps Us in the Field

Our team was working on the Point in Time Count. This annual event helps HUD and other government agencies gather information about homelessness. It is a snapshot in time, usually taking place on one of the coldest nights of the year.

Because our team goes to where people experiencing homelessness may be encamped, we tend to benefit the other teams that we work with that do not perform direct outreach.

Six of us had gone into the woods, down a trail where we only sometimes find people. The last time we were in the area, we saw signs of recent camps but had not found people. We do not open standing tents for any reason. Just because a person is homeless, they still have a right to privacy. This means we depend on a person calling out in response to us.

We called out several times around some tents. I could barely hear what I thought was a woman or child. Then, there was silence.

From experience, I know that sometimes people do not feel safe with my team. We are primarily men. Given what may happen to a homeless woman on any given night, there is every reason to be afraid or distrustful.

My team has begun integrating more women into our missions in the last few years. We started by limiting their work to “on-bus” work, but they have grown and trained to the point that they go where we go. I was glad about our team diversity tonight.

I called my teammate, Crystal, to come to the tent and talk with the person I believed to be inside. What a benefit this was! After hearing Crystal’s voice, the woman inside the tent immediately responded. We were able to help her; she gave us more information regarding other people in nearby tents. Additionally, we were able to add valuable information to the Point in Time Count.

I am proud of the diversity of our team. This night, it paid off for us!

How Diversity Helps in the Office

Through this mission, my eyes have been opened in many ways. One such thing is how much more people can do when we remove our assumptions. This year, we enjoy working with the great people at Brighter Horizons. This is a company focused on helping people with all disabilities. More can be found about Brighter Horizons here: Brighter Horizons (brighterhorizonsinc.com)

My eyes have been opened.

The team that comes to our office every week has been great! Our group has several people who have Down’s Syndrome and a few others who are on the spectrum for autism. All are very high functioning. They worked to fill over 1000 of our “blessing bags” that we hand out on our

outreach missions. These are filled with hats, gloves, hand warmers, and other items. They also worked at several of our Stuff the Bus events. And, one of the most important jobs, they helped us with our letter-writing campaign, sending out over 1500 mailings to groups that help us financially! All of these efforts directly helped us serve people experiencing homelessness this year!

Thank you, Brighter Horizons, for helping us help people experiencing homelessness and for helping me recognize my own bias toward people with disabilities. If given a chance, everybody can help and make a difference.

Other Notable Information About the Mission

Veteran Training and Treatment Center

Last year, our Mission worked with Progressive Insurance to convert a section of our headquarters into a Homeless Veteran Training and Treatment area. The space is designed to work with our Homeless Veterans Re-Empowerment Project. It also has different spaces for other conversations: a conference area, a living room, a private office, and various 2-10-person areas. When service providers cannot get our clients in, we want to have a space to bring the service to our clients.


The project is not expected to go live until 11/11/24. That doesn’t mean that we can’t start using the space in a way to help. Since the space was built, we have worked to offer things that are aligned with what we anticipate might be needed for the homeless veterans we expect to find.

Here are some of the ways that the space is being used:

  • Twice per week, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting occurs
  • Twice per month, a PTSD and Trauma support group meets
  • A “church without a roof” group uses the school space for mass periodically
  • Our Homeless Veterans Re-Empowerment “war room” planning sessions
  • The Men of Honor, a group focused on developing strong men, meets monthly
  • Training of all Sub Zero Mission volunteers

 

The Finance Committee

We are committed to full transparency in our financial data. Every donor should know exactly how their money is spent, and our accreditations depend on our clear financial records and reports.

Daily transactions have increased as our team has grown, requiring stronger reporting. Last year, our building and garage addition projects required a lot of focus on the budgets and expenditures. It was getting difficult and overwhelming. Our Treasurer, Shane Hajjar, and I collaborated on how we could improve our processes, and the Finance Committee was born!

The committee has a licensed CPA, two trustees, and a reporting specialist. Our trustees verify all spending and flag non-project or high-cost transactions for review, bank transactions, etc. The team also assists the Board of Directors by reviewing budget requests and advising, aligning spending with cost codes, taxes, and all other aspects of our money management.

Our Finance Committee, led by Shane Hajjar, meets monthly. Having only formed in the last few months, they have transformed our reporting, successfully filed our taxes on a year of increased complexity due to our fiscal year change, and helped us prepare for one of our most extensive accreditation reviews later this year!

Thank you to the members of this committee. You have helped, and you are appreciated!

The Myth of the Blue Fire

One of my favorite parts of my job is that it allows me to express myself artistically. Over the years, I have worked with various artists to create characters, graphic art, logos, t-shirt graphics, and even graphic novels. Using our characters, The Blue Coat Missionary and his faithful polar bear warrior friend, Shivers, we have published two graphic novels called “The Blue Coat Missionary.”

“I have found graphic novels to be great material for us to spread our message in a way that doesn’t seem discarded.

The content in the first graphic novels was not great for younger readers, though. I wanted to find a way to involve kids 8-11 without the heavy topics of mental health and drug use.

There has been a lot of talk in the last couple of years about what kids are reading. I wanted to write about how anybody can be that “somebody who should help. “It can be them! With the help of an artist, “The Myth of the Blue Fire” was created.

This heartwarming children’s story is about helping others and reminds us of the power of compassion and empathy. At The Sub Zero Mission, we call this “Blue Fire” ” the fire that fuels our desire to do more for those in need. It only takes a spark to ignite the flames of giving.

Let the Blue Fire burn by spreading kindness and helping those around us.

This book and both graphic novels are here: Books Archives – Sub Zero Mission.https://subzeromission.org/product-category/books/

Awards and Accreditations

It is not by accident that this is the last section of my annual report. Until recently, every attempt that any group made to give an award to me or the team was met with my standard reply, “We do it for the cause, not the applause.” Then, I talked to another charity administrator whom I trusted and who made me see it differently.

Charity work, while often rewarding, can sometimes feel thankless; worse, it can usually feel like you are making a difference. In the area of need that The Sub Zero Mission fills, it can feel like barely a drop of water in an endless sea of need. Homelessness has only gotten worse since our inception in 2008/2009. The camps are more giant. We now see women and children more regularly. The items we bring are but a few things that the people we find need. Twenty years of war have left a lot of veterans damaged and many homeless.

Denying recognition to the Mission was denying recognition to the 142 members of our cause who give us so much. Beginning two years ago, I started saying, “Okay.”

We thank everyone who nominated us for these awards. It is humbling. To my teammates, I say, “Congratulations!”. You have worked so hard, and I am so proud of every person on this team. Here are some awards and accreditations that you have earned!

Accreditations

We are proud to share that The Sub Zero Mission has achieved a FOUR STAR rating on Charity Navigator and a PLATINUM level rating on GuideStar. We are also proud to meet the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance’s 20 Standards of Accountability.

These top ratings were awarded for our financial efficiency, sustainability, and our commitment to transparency.

Your trust in our organization means everything to us!

Awards

Cup of Cold Water Award

The Ashtabula Area Ministerial Alliance honored us with the Cup of Cold Water Award, which is given annually to people and organizations serving the community.

Matthew 10:42 –
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Distinguished Civic Organization of the Year

I was honored to accept the Willoughby Rotary Club Distinguished Civic Organization of the Year Award on behalf of my team.
I am very proud of my team, and this award was for their hard work!

Congratulations Team!

Business of the Year

We are the Willoughby-Cleveland Elks Business of the Year!

Lodges are encouraged to select a citizen or group who has contributed to improving the community. This individual or group should have shown leadership, volunteered in the community, and been recognized as all‑around good citizens.
“The members of Solon Lodge #757 are very happy that you will be this year’s Grand Master’s Community Award recipient for the 22nd District of Masons of Ohio. We are glad to have an opportunity to help and create a relationship with Sub Zero Mission in achieving your great philanthropic work. This is a great opportunity to spread that Blue Flame you are passionate about into the Masonic community. I hope this leads to greater things in the future.”

Riverside High School Alumni Hall of Fame

Co-founder Del Bethel and I were honored as Alumni Hall of Fame induction for our service in the community. This is one of the most humbling awards I have ever received. Del and I have been friends and brothers since junior high school. We served in the Marines together. We started The Sub Zero Mission together. To be given this great honor together has made the
journey even more special. While our names will appear on placards and walls, it is because of the hard work of so many people, the caring nature of so many donors, and the help from so many supporters in so many ways.
Thank you for allowing us to serve.

Our Creed

Years ago, one of my commanding officers told me, “People are united by cause or colors.” “Colors” in the Marine Corps refers to our flags. Those of the United States, the Marine Corps, and each unit has a standard of some sort. We have found that our team is united by our cause and our “colors,” which, in our case, are the logos and shields of our teams.
Long ago, our team adopted a creed. I first encountered the words in professional reading while serving. Later, they appeared again in a war movie. I presented it to our Blue Coat Missionary team, and we agreed. It is who we believe we are and why we live as we do.
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. 
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.” -Chief Tecumseh