Helping veterans using the outdoors
A local group is using the outdoors to help veterans.
“We focus primarily on the ones who are disabled or have been deployed, but we’re not excluding anybody else either,” said Chuck Geertz, founder of English River Outfitters. “All of our programs are free to the veterans, so if we bring them in for a hunting trip, a camping trip, a fishing trip, it’s free to our veterans.”
English River Outfitters has a lodge on 32 acres next to Sockum Ridge Park in Washington County.
“What we do is we kind of set up a respite area so that they can come in and relax and get away and have fun,” Geertz said. “From a deployment, we reintegrate the family again. For the veterans that have got health issues, like PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder], it’s a nice quiet place for them to come and relax and just kind of get away from everybody.”
Geertz started English River Outfitters in 2008. He had always wanted to open a hunting and fishing lodge. However, after working with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and seeing their anxiety, he realized another outlet was needed for them.
This is when he decided to start English River Outfitters. He began looking for land on which to host hunting and fishing events and found the land south of Washington.
Since he began English River Outfitters, he said he has saved three veterans from committing suicide, two marriages from divorces, and has taken countless veterans on trips they otherwise may not go on.
The response has also been well-received, Geertz said.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “It’s gotten bigger than what I ever thought it would get. I thought we would focus on the resident veterans we’ve got around Iowa, but we’ve got people coming in from Florida, Texas, Virginia, Nebraska, Pennsylvania.”
Geertz works with two other board members, Michelle Briggs, and Harlan Yoder, to help plan events and raise funds for trips. To take a veteran on a hunting or fishing trip costs $500, which is all paid through donations, Geertz said.
“Just being outside in nature in general and overall is therapy for these guys,” he said.
For more information about English River Outfitters Geertz said e-mailing him is the best way to get a hold of him. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.