Eradicating Veteran Homelessness and Poverty
Eradicating Veteran Homelessness and Poverty
In this, The Faces of Business, our guest, Mark Casper, Executive director/President, Tech For Troops, talks about the work they are doing at Tech for Troops to help eradicate veteran homelessness and poverty one vet at a time.
We learn how Mark and the others at Tech for Troops are giving veterans the electronic tools and training they need to find work in the private sector.
Damon Pistulka warmly welcomes Mark Casper from Tech for Troops to the show. He is running a nonprofit organization as a director.
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Mark shares his mission of helping out veterans, no matter to which organization they belonged to as long as they need help with technology. He stacks up computers donated by people or organizations, destroys any data remaining, and refurbishes the computer for a new user at low cost or zero cost. They bring veterans and their families, to their training facility and help them learn IT skills, and then give them away for free.
Mark grew up in San Antonio and then moved 5o to a small town called Lufkin. He joined Marine Corps, following his mother’s suggestion. He met his wife in San Diego when he was there for boot camp, stationed at Cherry Point, North Caroline. As a mentor, he always had the urge to help people rise. After leaving Marine Corps, he graduated in 97, and then he made his way up working in multiple organizations until he joined Tech for Troops.
To prosper, Mark, along with his wife, decided to come to Virginia, where he currently lives. He has held many positions such as Project Manager and Capital Planning Manager. He manufactured windows and worked at Orkin Pest Control and FedEx. He made his journey through thick and thin.
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Damon asks Marks how he came to the idea of starting Tech for Troops. Marks says that at a networking event, he met a founder. Since Mark had volunteered at another nonprofit veteran organization, the founder offered him the position of Executive Director right away. Mark recounts his first reaction when he entered the office. The place was too tiny to work. Yet, he was happy to join. Now that tiny 750 square feet office has turned into an 8,000-square-foot building complex. He has been working there for seven years. He expresses his deep pleasure in serving his fellow veterans.
Events that came into play are also described by Mark. He tells that the founder’s son’s friend, an ex-Afghan returned marine was living in abject poverty. The son asked his mother if they could get his friend a computer so the latter could earn a living. So, it was the start of Tech for Troops. They bought him a refurbished unit. Marks also mentions that they destroy the preloved hard disk drives.
Damon inquires Mark about the number of computers they give to veterans. Mark answers that before the Covid-19 shutdown, they were sending around one thousand units. During Covid-19 lockdown, the numbers nosedived. As of now, till July 12, they have handed over around 600 computers while their target is 750. But he foresees that from 800 to 850 units will be given to veterans.
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While talking about the veteran suicide rate, Mark deplores that it stands at twenty-seven. It is because of recent wars and poor economic conditions the veterans face. Once they are out of the military, they are on ground zero. He recounts how his initiative has worked wonders for transitioning veterans. Many of them are making a six-figure salary. He mentions an alcohol addict who got into virtual assistance and is now a house owner.
Similarly, Mark laments that if one works for twenty years in the military, one cannot get twenty pensions. Even the critically injured soldiers who are later handicapped for good get nothing. On a realistic note, Mark maintains that it is not like one gets Lamborghini when working as a VA. It only helps the veterans to earn enough to pay rent.
Marks highlights some of the challenges faced by transitioning veterans. He says when they are in service, everyone respects them and wants to have them on board. Once they are out, the challenges start. Since most of them do not computers, they submit their paper resumes. They severely lag in computer literacy. Having no access to Information Technology is the biggest challenge they face.
Damon wants to know what businesses should expect from the veterans when hiring them. Mark enumerates three proven skills any veteran has. Firstly, they are very good managers. Secondly, they pose remarkable compliance and thirdly, they have a matchless ability to get things done. They have both soft and hard skills.
Together with giving computers to veterans, Mark’s company also holds some training sessions. The company offers everything from foundation to advanced level courses, to diverse groups. They also advise on financial management. Mark says during military service, the soldiers are not trained to use computers.
To make sure veterans get jobs, Mark holds some “resume classes.” He checks the curricula vitae (CV) of the trainees. He narrates an interesting incident. Once Mark redlined multiple fields in a CV of a veteran. He came complaining. Later on, he was selected by one of the Fortune 250 companies. Now, he is very thankful and calls Mark “papa.”
Other than having no computer skills, in Mark’s view, the veterans face some other issues. Out of which, homelessness is the biggest. They live under very poor circumstances. Moreover, they do not know financial management.
Damon lists some of the above-mentioned services Mark is providing to veterans. For instance, taking, recycling, refurbishing computers and helping veterans earn a living. He asks Mark what else he needs. The latter replies “financial help would be phenomenal.” For fundraising, Mark’s company is going to organize a gold tournament in Richmond. Moreover, they want to conduct some workshops for stenography, and cryptography, as well. They will also invite guest speakers to illuminate veterans on various modern-day skills.
Mark reveals that he is going to engage the federal government in his venture. The government possesses more than 100,000 computers in its warehouse. If it gives only 10,000 to Tech for Troops, it will “truly change the world.”
Mark discloses that he is not very aware of political matters. But he knows that a Republican Senator can help him uplift the veteran community. Damon utilizes this Livestream as a platform and requests that if anyone knows any Republican Senator, they must help Tech for Troops.
Further, Mark raises a very rational point that veterans are taught to use guns but not computers. The administration must take note and act accordingly.
While concluding, Mark says that he is going to two rapid initiatives. Out of one to hold 5,000 classes a year virtually. Tech for Troops will train the veterans in various fields. After certificate classes, trainees can use LinkedIn badges to bag job opportunities.
Finally, Damon generously thanks Mark for his time and the discussion comes to a close.
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Damon Pistulka, Mark Casper
Damon Pistulka 00:01
All right, everyone, welcome once again, the faces of business. I’m your host, Damon Pistulka. And with me today, I have Mark Casper from Tech for troops. Mark, welcome, welcome.
Mark Casper 00:14
Thank you Damon, I’m happy to be here and to be able to spread the awareness of tech for troops.
Damon Pistulka 00:18
Yeah, this is awesome, man. Because I love talking about great organizations, helping veterans, you know, whether it’s transitioning into the private sector, whether it’s helping their families and you know, today we’re going to talk about a myriad of things. But you know, I really love the mission attack for troops. So let’s, let’s, first of all, let’s start out by having you explain the mission of tech for trips.
Mark Casper 00:43
Sure. So individuals and corporations have to do something with their computers. And what we ask is that they donate them to tech for troops will guarantee data destruction. And then what we’ll do is refurbish those computers, and we’ll support in the veterans and their families, active duty transitioning, whether this National Guard or Army or the Marine Corps doesn’t really make a difference, active duty transitioning, and will help them learn how to use a computer, as well as give that computer to them at our low cost or no cost. Depending upon where they are.
In Richmond, we actually bring them into our training facility, which is right here beside me, seats 24. And they spend a couple hours with us learning how to use that computer, and then they take that computer home for free.
Damon Pistulka 01:29
Awesome. Awesome. So Mark, so we’re going to talk about text for troops for in a minute. Let’s talk about you because you’re working in tech for troops now nonprofit director of it, but you started off in the Marine Corps. I back in a little while ago, a little while ago, a little while ago. And, and let’s start let’s talk about your background a little bit and kind of how you got where you are today, here.
Mark Casper 02:00
Sure, sure. So I grew up in San Antonio. Then my parents moved me to a little small town called Lufkin, Texas, my 11th year, right? So as I was a junior, and that was a culture shock in and of itself. And one night, when Friday night, my mom walked in the bedroom and looked at me and said, Why don’t you join the Marine Corps do something with your life? And I’m like, Okay, right. I was as goober kid didn’t know what I was going to do in life. Join the Marine Corps, went to boot camp in San Diego, was stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina, which is where I met my wife, we’re still married, it’d be 38 years this year.
Awesome. And I mean, I just at that point, there was always something clicking in me about serving others, whether I was helping to mentor folks who were in and they were, you know, sort of not doing well. Or after I got out, I took part of that Marine Corps training with me the discipline, and the knowledge and I sort of lost my way when it came to that servant’s heart. But also had kids went to school, I got my college degree, and I graduated in 97. And from then it was just trajectory up working in multiple corporations until I came into tech for troops.
Damon Pistulka 03:20
Yeah, yeah, cuz because Tell me about some of the different positions you had, you had quite a variety of logistics and just some really interesting things
Mark Casper 03:29
I did. So when I got out of the Marine Corps. I did, we were actually supposed to move to Texas, and an 87. When I got out when the oil bust hit down there. I talked to my wife, and she’s from Richmond, Virginia, which is where we’re at now. And I’m like, Babe, I can go work at a 711. And we can struggle or you can go to Virginia, and become a teacher because that’s where she got her degree in. And so we moved to Virginia, and I’ve been here ever since. And then I’ve had all sorts of jobs, window manufacturing. Orkin pest control, went to school, I worked at FedEx, which is actually the building I’m in now, which is sort of a weird thing.
Because I was here for five years. And now I see the same cracks in the floor that were here back in the 90s. In 2022, right, it’s just sort of a deja vu all over again, type of thing. Yeah. And then I got into the corporate world, and I started climbing the ladder to the best of my abilities got into it. Project management, did really well in some organizations, and others were just a little too stifling. Which I think everybody goes through that. Yeah.
And then I was a project manager, capital planning manager, so I was working for the VA federal government at the VA. And I was tracking 50 different IT projects and all the money and everything that happened to it. So I mean, it was, excuse me as a big time deal. But I always knew that there was something missing in my life.
Damon Pistulka 04:57
So tell me a Little bit about, you mentioned this in some of the stuff you write on LinkedIn and other places about the day you saw tech for troops and the, you know, the, the fireworks went off.
Mark Casper 05:15
Yeah. So I met the founder at a networking event. And we’ve sat and talked for about an hour, right being in the Marine Corps, I had volunteered at another nonprofit veteran, nonprofit. And I stayed there for a little over a year, enjoyed my time, got in with the veteran community a bit here in Richmond, which is what I was missing. And I knew that I was missing that. And when I rolled into the veteran community, that’s when I knew, but the founder asked me, Would you like to be on the board? And I’m like, yeah, let me come in and check the place out. I don’t know anything about what you do and how you do it.
So I literally walked in the door, my head exploded, right? Sunshine, unicorns, fireworks, the whole nine yards, the whole thing just went off. And I liken it to God telling me I was home, right, because quite literally, I took the tour 750 square feet. I mean, like it’s tiny, tiny place. And the, the owner, the founder looked at me and said, Do you want to be Executive Director? I’m like, yeah, yeah.
And I went home that night, tell my wife, Hey, babe. I’m gonna shut down my company. We’re making good money, and I’m gonna go do this other thing that I’ve never done before. And she’s like, Okay, if that’s what you feel like you should do? And I’m like, it is. So I’ve been here for almost seven years now. And now we’re at a little almost 1000 square feet.
Damon Pistulka 06:33
Yeah. Yeah, that’s awesome. Because those moments like you had where you find what you really, you know what, what you’re meant to do at that point is something?
Mark Casper 06:46
Yeah, it is actually. And I hope I honestly, I hope everybody finds that in their life. A lot of people don’t. And it’s sad to me. I mean, it’s, you know, you’re a tough Marine, ya know, but when I found this place, my life changed. It literally, I knew that Servant’s Heart came out to the nth degree, to the nth degree because of what I’m doing for my brothers and sisters. Yeah.
Damon Pistulka 07:11
Yeah. Well, that’s awesome. So it’s cool to see that you found this now. And you’re so passionate about it. So what how did tech for troops come about? I mean, you talked about meeting the founder, what happened to get someone to decide that we’re going to do what you guys do?
Mark Casper 07:30
Yeah. So the founders son. He was around 2022 years old in college, I think, had a friend, a Marine, who came back from Afghanistan, and was sleeping on the couch because he couldn’t find a job. He didn’t have a computer. And quite literally, it was the son asking mom, hey, can we get him a computer. And that literally was the genesis of tech for troops. And I started out with, of course, on the kitchen table, getting a computer refurbishing it going all the way to where we are today. With guaranteed data destruction, we’re actually buying a hard drive shredder soon. So we’ll be able to, like turn them into tiny little pieces.
But that’s, that’s how it started. And then it went into a storage unit. And then it became into this building here at 750 square foot. So and you know, I’m not gonna say it’s because of me that we’ve grown so much. But I think part of the reason why we have grown is because of I am passionate about it. And I love what I do. And it’s not, I don’t get up for a job. I now have a calling. Yeah. And that is the biggest difference in my life. Because you know, I think we’ve all been in those corporate or small jobs or whatever you’re doing. You’re like, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m tired of it. The rat race? Well, I did the rat race. And then I found the place I’m supposed to be.
Damon Pistulka 08:52
There you go. So started with the founders son getting out of the military, couldn’t find a job didn’t have a computer. Yes, they recycled a computer for him. So use it. Correct. And it turned into this. Now you got about 8000 square feet. How many? How many computers do you guys handle in a given year?
Mark Casper 09:14
We Well, you know, I was bring up the COVID. Right? Because we were we were well on our way to 1000 computers a year giving them out to vets. And then COVID hit and that first when everything shut down in March of 2020. I called my team together and I was like, I’m honest with you. You know, I’m honest, I don’t want you to worry. We’re going to make it but I don’t know how we’re going to make it. Yes.
You know, the whole thing. The phone wasn’t ringing. Nobody was ringing the doorbell to Dona computers. We weren’t being contacted. And somehow, someway, we came out stronger than ever, right? Maybe not in the number of computers we gave away. But how we changed our processes to make them better and faster and stronger. And I think that will so that was where we are today. We’re at about 600 computers for this year, and it’s only July 12. My goal this year was 750. Across the nation, I think we’re going to blow through that and get closer to 800 850.
Damon Pistulka 10:15
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s, and that’s
Mark Casper 10:18
not all the computers we touch. Yeah, there’s a lot old stuff in and we shred them or we responsibly recycle. We’re responsible recycled over 600 tons and seven years now.
Damon Pistulka 10:29
Wow. Well, that’s a good point in and of itself is even if you can’t use the electronics are the computers, you still responsibly recycle them. So they get those cylinders gets dumped into a landfill someplace that yeah, where it’s not supposed to be. So,
Mark Casper 10:47
yeah, so percent of hazardous waste in a landfill. 70% comes from E waste. Yeah. So that’s, that’s, that’s unacceptable. For those of us all of us actually, around the world. kids, grandkids. Great. Great. Great. Great. Great, thank you. Good. You know, that whole nine yards, I don’t want the world to die. Because I was too stubborn headed to do the right thing and recycling.
Damon Pistulka 11:10
Yeah, that’s a great point. Because it’s the right thing. There’s the right thing, it really is the right thing. And when you can, when you can turn the computers into something that that is very valuable to a veteran transitioning out of the military. That’s something for sure. So let’s back up a little bit. Let’s talk about some that serious subject that I always like to bring up when we’re talking about veterans, because I want everybody to know something about the veteran suicide rate.
Mark Casper 11:46
That one hurts me to the core. I don’t I understand what I don’t understand why. Because I’ve never done it right. And of course, because I’m here and that kind of thing. But, and I served during a time of peace under Reagan. And there was no PTSD or any of those things. But yeah, okay with, with the vets getting out and who’ve been Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria now. And Eastern Africa and other places. Yeah. I just read a story today, what we think it is, is they’re so used to giving, giving, giving, and being part of a team and that family that is there for you. And then once you get out, it’s like scattered to the four corners of the earth.
And you don’t find that servant’s heart, you don’t continue on with that. And the ones who do continue on with it are successful in life. The ones who don’t, are not successful, because we get a lot of in the veterans who come in our doors, and I talked to him, right, I’m very honest with them. And I’m very in their face as well, that tech for troops, this is your opportunity to change your life. And we’ve had extreme success with that. So we have a guy who’s now down at Fort Lee, at the network operation center, making six figures, right, he was homeless living in his car combat vet, another guy that brought in as well.
He’s now with a fortune, I’d say a fortune 500 company with the probably in the top 250. And he’s now a programmer. And it literally it’s talking to him, kick them in the butt and tell them to get out. Let’s make this happen for you. And one of my favorite is Marshall. And Marshall was a drug alcohol addiction, living in an abandoned building, asking God literally to take his life because he couldn’t do this anymore type of thing. Because he had that little sign on the on the corner and like, Hey, give me money.
I’m a veteran. That was him. One of those guys. And he got sober, got into the VA. And he came to us for a computer. And his life has changed. He’s got he’s been accepted to buy a house. And now we have to find a house that he can afford. So he’s nice literal. Yeah, I know living in a building, abandoned building at that to able to make the money to buy a house that is just blows me away every day.
Damon Pistulka 14:07
Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And, you know, the tech for troops mission, getting the computers in the hands of these troops transitioning out of the military, gives them one more tool to be able to find, you know, find their way to the next opportunity and the community that will help them continue to be successful. So when we talk about the veteran suicide rate, what do you have any idea what the current veteran suicide rate is? I haven’t seen it for why
Mark Casper 14:40
it’s closer to 27 because of COVID. I call it the vid. A lot of vets have lot of vets lost their jobs and have a hard time had a hard time or might still have a hard time coming back into the community and the number has gone up from 20 To closer to 27, it fluctuates. And that’s a good thing, because we always wanted to go down fluctuation on actuation. But yeah, it’s around 27. Last I heard, and a lot of it is because they just don’t feel part of the community anymore, and they can’t take care of their families.
Damon Pistulka 15:16
Yeah, yeah. And that helpless feeling, it’s just, it’s just, it’s pretty tough. So one of the other things we talked about before we got on is the misconception that a lot of people have about veterans transitioning out of the military, and the benefits that they have. And a lot of people don’t really understand that, uh, you know, to get pension and full, you know, retirement and medical benefits, you have to be in the military for what is it?
20 years, 20 years? Yeah. And a lot of these people transitioning out of the military or are more like they do one, one tour or two tour, so it was like, for eight years or something like that, whatever would a current year now, and they’re coming out without benefits there. Other than some, you know, if they got injured in the military or something like that, that, that could be a little bit. But that’s one of the things that I think a lot of people don’t realize is they’re they come out of the military, and they’re starting from ground zero.
Mark Casper 16:21
That is the honest truth. And it’s one of the hardest things for people to understand. You put a uniform on, you do the same thing every day for years on end, four years, eight years, whatever that number is that you’re there 17 years, and you get hurt, right? You step on an ID you hurt your back, something happens. And yeah, you don’t get your 20 pension, you just don’t. And so you try to get into the VA and get the pittance that they give you at the VA. But a lot of the time, it’s not you’re not going out buying a Lamborghini with what the VA Yeah, you’re barely paying rent if you’re getting that much.
So if you’re not able to do things, it’s I think that’s where a lot of I don’t know this for a fact. But I think that’s where a lot of the suicide thoughts comes from the suicide ideations because they’re used to get taken care of, they’re used to being the alpha of the family, whether it’s a man or a woman doesn’t really make a difference. And then all of a sudden, they’re injured, and they can’t. Yeah. And it’s something else. I mean, we were talking earlier, I was at a networking event, and this is what brought it up.
This woman looked at me and said You served four years you got your pension or retirement, I’m like, you get anything. Right. They gave me that he gave me a handshake going out the door and everything. And that’s just what it is. You do your time. And you get out and you meet these guys and gals who served six years in combat, and they’re out they don’t get anything. And if they’re not there that service connected disability, they get absolutely zero. After what they went through, right, whether it was a Volusia or coast, k h o s t in Afghanistan, it doesn’t really make it there. They get nothing. And they’re struggling, a lot of them are struggling hard.
Damon Pistulka 18:08
Yeah. So what are some of the biggest challenges you see for these people transitioning into the private sector? Coming out, in general,
Mark Casper 18:22
they’re probably like, I was, right. I’m a Marine, everybody’s gonna love me, everyone’s gonna want to hire me. And then when you get out, and nobody cares about you, because you’re out, and you’re just another body. That was the biggest, depressing wake up call I’ve ever had in my entire life. And I know that’s because I’ve talked to these guys, a lot of them feel the same way. You know, I served my time, I’m getting out to eight years, and seven out of 10 enlisted, better get a get out, don’t have a computer in the home.
So in today’s age, when I got out, you send a paper resume out, you can probably get an interview most of the time. Today, if you don’t have a computer, that tool, you’re not sending resumes anywhere, you’re not getting a job. So I think that’s the biggest problem. That misconception is that I’m a Marine, right? And I will talk bad about the Army, the Navy or the Coasties rails guys, although I can and I will at times. But I honestly thought I’m really bad. And I’m going to get a job. I got the tiger by the tail. And it worked that way.
Damon Pistulka 19:32
Yeah. So do you think that as you see these people transitioning out? Do you think there are? And this might be a loaded question that you’d have no idea about. But do you think there’s some things that in the private sector should really understand better about people transitioning out as far as Oh, experience and just other things? Just give me a moment and talk about that too. Yeah, absolutely.
Mark Casper 19:59
So what, what, what comes out a lot when I talk to small businesses and medium business, larger businesses are different, like the fortune 500.
You know, they got 50,000 people. But the smaller and the medium sized businesses don’t understand that a veteran is going to bring to your organization, more than likely, they have managerial skills, no matter what their resume says, right, they’re going to have to go get numbness to make it happen, and stick to itiveness gung ho, if you want to call it that, and they’re also going to bring the one thing that most people don’t understand is they’re going to be able to take orders, and to be able to do the job, because that’s what you’re asking them to do.
So when you have somebody who has those three qualities and characters, and you’re looking at somebody going, I don’t know, take that military mentality, put it into yourself and say, Oh, if that’s what they’re bringing to my table, that’s what I need to look at.
And I’ll be honest with you, as you’re getting out, there’s no, there is programs to help you write resumes, but it’s not pushed, it’s not pushed the right way, in my opinion, the guy’s getting out, I’ve got resumes where I lead men into combat, and I’m like, Yeah, marine, that’s not happening, you’re not gonna get a job telling people you went out and lead men into combat, you’re not getting the job, because people are gonna be scared of you.
So we got to change it into you have managerial experience, and soft skills. Because when you’re doing that kind of thing, you have to have soft skills and hard skills. And I think that’s the biggest misconception that companies don’t understand what you’re going to get when you hire a vet.
Damon Pistulka 21:36
Yeah. What you’re going to get when you hire that, I like that. So the veterans coming to you, when you look at the computer skills, because you guys do computer training as well, right? Correct. What are the basic skills you’re trying to instill in them on your computer so that they can be successful.
Mark Casper 22:01
So our computer training runs the gamut. And I have very humbled a couple of weeks ago, I was down in Williamsburg, Virginia, which about an hour away. And I had a couple of vets I had about a 29 year old Air Force fab. She’s very, very nice, relatively good with computers. I really wasn’t teaching her a tremendous amount. She followed and listen and learn. But the guy over to my left was a Korean War vet. So the gamut went from never touched a computer to I know a little bit about computers already. And so of course, when you’re an instructor, you have to teach that lowest part. And when I got back to work, I thought I’d done a great job, right?
Both of them understood computers. Yeah, they get it, they get it. And then the Korean War vet called me up and I literally pick up the phone. I’m like, Hey, what’s going on? And he’s like, how do you open the computer? So I’m like, Oh, I failed. That’s first thing in my head. I failed. Because I’m like, you ever had a flip phone? He’s like, Yeah, well, it’s like a flip phone. You open it up like a flip phone. He’s like, Well, these tabs on the side, there’s no tabs don’t break anything. Just find it and open it up this way.
And so literally, we teach from that, to how to get in a computer, make the changes, how to get online, how to create a resume, right, we’re not going to write it for him. But there are programs out there that will help you do it. A little bit of financial management, because most of them have a need for that. And then we do a ton, a ton of personal cybersecurity, ton of personal cybersecurity. So it runs the gamut everything that we do. But I was humbled to, I started a class at night with the computers close and say open it up. Yeah, that’s,
Damon Pistulka 23:41
that’s a great point. Point. Two things. One is beginning at the real beginning. For your audience, and then the second is the diversity of people that you have to be able to train
Mark Casper 23:56
constantly. Yeah, constant. Yep. And we’ll get folks in I was always at a class up in West Virginia at the VA hospital up there. We had about 30 people in class, it was really cool, really good time. And as I’m teaching the class, I always walk around to make sure what he’s doing the right thing and stay in, you know, they’re not surfing for something they shouldn’t be surfing for. And I had about eight of them, who were in the programming mode. They had a window up and they were in the programming, and I’m doing all this stuff.
And I’m like, you don’t need to be here. You don’t you guys need to go and actually had a company that was sponsoring that training event for us, who had programmers they sent out to help me with training. And I’m like, Hey, take these eight into a corner, start teaching them some tricks, because they’re way ahead of where I am. I don’t even open up that window, right. So it’s yeah, it runs the gamut from how to open it up to there in programming mode already. But they’re getting that tool to better their lives.
Damon Pistulka 24:49
Yeah, because it doesn’t matter if you know how to program if you don’t have a computer doesn’t make it that you’re getting at least getting that it is so say no Vanguard wants to. Thank you, Mark. Thank
Mark Casper 25:03
you. And I appreciate that. And Gordon, appreciate that.
Damon Pistulka 25:08
friend of ours out of Canada. So, yeah, it’s, that’s, I mean, that’s an interesting point that you bring that up about these people were transitioning out. And they were, they were trained in the military technically trained enough that they’re understanding how to program a computer, but they don’t have a computer when they have a military.
Mark Casper 25:30
And that’s, that’s one of the sad things that I run into is, a lot of the men and women that I talked to are brilliant, right? They truly have it, they just fell into hard times, something happened, divorce, lost everything, drugs, alcohol, something, whatever that thing is, and they’re trying to better their lives. And that when they were in that dark spot, no matter what it was about, computers, at least that your worries, so they’ve probably hooked it off, did something with it, gave it away. I don’t need this anymore. And then come to find out Yeah, you do. That’s the tool. That’s that one tool you’re going to use the rest of your life is going to make you a better person and help you get a better job.
Damon Pistulka 26:10
Yeah. Yeah, we take that a lot of people, myself included, take it for granted. I do too. Yep. He turned it on every day, like a wash they used to put on your wrist. You know,
Mark Casper 26:23
I still wear watches. I do I do. I don’t do the Apple Watch thing. Because that’s, that’s like a tender man. That’s
Damon Pistulka 26:31
Mark Casper 26:32
somebody’s watching you all the time. I quit
Damon Pistulka 26:35
wearing a watch just because I didn’t. I’m left handed. So I didn’t like watch the for the because I wear on the wrong hand. Right. But I never been a I’ve always had a watch. And I’ll put it on if I have to go out for business. But that’s
Mark Casper 26:50
yeah, I tried to wear one every day. It just a good reminder that sometimes traditions are good.
Damon Pistulka 26:56
They are they are definitely are. So the technology challenges, so you’re trying to get these people past that point? And I mean, do you guys do that in resume classes for them as well? Or is that something else that they do someplace else? I mean, because I’m thinking through the process. So I got my computer now. Now the next step.
Mark Casper 27:24
So it’s resume classes, but we don’t give the classes we know people who help out with that kind of stuff, nice getting, having 10 people in a class and trying to help folks with a resume all the way through. That would be a full class in and of itself. Yeah, what I tell everybody is, if you want a job, I know a lot of folks, I will get you a job, right? If you want to turn signs on the street for v dot, I can get you a firstname.lastname@example.org you want to work for Altria, or a Carmax. And you have those skill sets, I will get you a job at one of those places.
But you got to get me a resume, understand, I’m going to be a real jerk about your resume. Because you have to make it look good. I don’t care if you have spots where it’s missing in you, because you were in whatever something happened. Be honest. Let me redline it. And I will I will.
I will redline all the two words on there if I have to. But I sent it back out with a love of hey, let’s make this better come back with something different. And the guy that’s working at the insurance company a fortune 250 company. Yeah, I did his multiple times. And he hated me at the end. But now he comes back and calls me papa. I helped him get a frickin job was driving an Audi. An old pickup truck.
Damon Pistulka 28:40
Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s awesome to be able to see that happen, though. So what I mean, when you look, and this is off the topic a test for troops a little bit, but I do want to bring some more attention to this. What are the other challenges? You see the vets coming to you? Because I mean, you’re helping them with a computer. That’s one piece of their life? What are some of the other major things that you see that would be nice if you could find some additional resources or knew where to send somebody for this? Or is it covered?
Mark Casper 29:20
No, it’s not covered? No. The biggest issue as they come to my class, right, so they’re already in a place that’s not good. Most of us never want to be there, which is homeless, right? They might be in a homeless shelter, and they have a roof over their head but they’re still homeless, is they have no idea how to handle money, financial management, it’s not taught in schools anymore. You know, there’s always like big headlines. The schools district now going to teach financial management teach kids how to, you know, take care of money. Yeah, majority don’t do that. So they have no idea. I had a vet look me in the face.
When I handed him a computer. We’re talking about financial matters. You bet. And so I just take my check to the check cashing place. And I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, well, you gotta be crazy, right? Because you’re probably losing somewhere close to 5%. And I’m like, think about it this way, you get $100 check, and it’s $100, you’re automatically walking out that door with $65. Is that a good thing? And he’s like, Well, I never thought about it that way. So I say get a bank account, deposit your check, put a little money into a rainy day fund, even if it’s just $10 a week or a month, or whatever you’re doing.
And then you can start building that up and get your credit score back up. So what I would love to have anybody who’s listening, if you’re a bank, anywhere in the United States, and you want to support us, I’d love to have financial management class, or at least the paperwork, the training, so I can teach it if you can’t do it, if you’re not in the Richmond area, or wherever I’m going to help train. Because that is, I mean, using the computer is one thing, but if you can actually take care of your own money, and understand what a credit score is, that is huge, huge.
Damon Pistulka 31:03
Okay, good. Well, hopefully someone hears this and we’ll talk about this after a little bit as well. So the How can so tech for troops, you guys are as it says, you’re taking computers, you’re recycling computers, and then you’re refurbishing the ones that are good refurbish, you’re giving those to veterans transitioning into the private sector. So that they can use those to find a job and the other things they need to do. So how can individuals and companies get involved with tech for troops
Mark Casper 31:45
just actually just contact us there are a couple of different ways I’ll give you my email address. Am Casper at Tech for troops.org. That’s MCSP er, like the ghost at Tech for troops dot O R, T, CH FLR, tr, O PS, you can use info at Tech for troops, you can go to our webpage, and contact us go through that. If you’re a corporation, and you want to have computers picked up, we have a pickup request form. And you can do that and you do this all over the nation. What we would ask him say if you’re in California, right now we’re in Richmond, help us out, pay for the shipping for us.
But we’ll send you out the boxes, lockable boxes, so you can ship your gear to us safely with the Chain of Custody form if you if you’re looking for that. And then let us know what you need. The guarantee data structure says we actually provide certificates of destruction. There’s a small fee for that. But most folks don’t mind paying that because they know and they understand that the software we use, it’s NSA, DOD, HIPAA, and NIST compliant. So all of those, all those organizations have said, Yeah, this is good stuff.
And there’s no data left on that hard drive, we actually had a large corporation send us a bunch of stuff the other day 13 of those hard drives out of, I think it was like 75 or 8013, those hard drives we couldn’t completely wipe because there was a sector on there that actually ran the operating system for the hard drive. But since we can’t say that that sector does not have any personal information in it, we crushed them. And that’s it.
Right? We don’t say, oh, golly, it should be okay. I’m like, No, we’ve got a crush, which is why we’re buying the shredder. So we’re just going to send it through a shredder from now one little tiny pieces about that big. But yeah, let folks know that we can do that with them. They can contact us that way. Call us the phone numbers on the web on our webpage, please. We’d love to hear from you.
Damon Pistulka 33:40
All right. Awesome. And we’ll make sure the web page and everything is in the comments as well. So let’s in tech for troops right now. Yes, you want. You want equipment and computer send to you. What other things could help tech for troops right now?
Mark Casper 34:02
Oh, financial help, would be phenomenal. We actually had in the Richmond area, we’re gonna have a golf tournament in November. So if you’re in this area, we’d love to have your support with that. But the next thing that we’re doing, that’s going to be huge, actually, we’re doing the first one for free. And I say that in a way that we don’t know how it’s going to go over. We’re going to do a gaming competition for disabled vets.
And this year, we’re just going to bring events we’re hoping to have 25 to 30 and they’re going to play Halo and just talk smack to each other right and but we’re not asking for sponsors for that because I want to make sure that how we’re going to do it is going to work with the whole you know, who wins what who’s going to do things in the hole. How do you run a tournament? I’ve never done that before. Yeah, we’re actually waiting on that. But it as we grow, we want to do those gaming tournaments all over the nation. Sponsor again tournament. So we can do this for our veterans, our disabled vets.
And so we’re asking for the wheelchair bound that’s too come in and play, and others, right, so I’m a disabled vet. But it’s because of my hearing, I lost my hearing while I was in. But so I’m considered disabled. But I also don’t know how to play a video game either. So I won’t compete. This thing is just not my idea. Yeah, but as well, in January, we’re gonna have hack for troops. It’s a capture the flag cybersecurity fundraising event. It’ll be online and butts and seat here in Richmond. And what we’re going to do is we have all these different challenges from steganography, and cryptography and all these other geographies.
And corporations can sponsor that we’re going to have guest speakers. If you want to speak let us know. We’re going to stream it live on our Discord channel. I mean, it’s going to be cool. And we’ve done it in the past. But this year, we’re going to blow it up a lot.
Because the butts and seats, we have colors, we have the American flag, we say the pledge to do the national anthem, we have food, we always have great food, their butts and seats, but then internationally or online. Kids can play from all over it. And the team that won last year, the students, these are high school students, one of the kids was like in Jordan, and we couldn’t ship his gift to him. So he gave his gift to somebody else, which is fine. But I mean, literally, it’s an international competition. Hack Fosse. Wow. That’s a lot of support on that. Yeah,
Damon Pistulka 36:21
that’s cool. Well, I’ve got someone that when we get offline, I will do an introduction there for that, because I think they’ll be very interested in that. And then you had an important there was an important thing that happened today. So I want to make sure that we got we’re going to talk about this. And then we’re going to make sure to once again and before we wrap up here we’re going to talk about the tech for troops again and how people get involved and donate stuff. But what happened today in the US House, that was such a big deal for you. It’s a we couldn’t have time this better.
Mark Casper 36:52
No doubt about that, no doubt. For the last four years, literally for years, I’ve been working with two different representatives. First one was de Bratt Republican, he’s not there, Abigail spanberger Beat him. We’re not political here. So Dave, brat couldn’t get this across the line. I love Dave, don’t get me wrong. But Abigail came in or representative spanberger. I don’t know if I’m on a first name basis where there’s hope in my belief that we’ll peace out.
But representative spanberger has been pushing this for us for two years. And then it passed the House Oversight Committee back in early June, which was huge, because it passed with bipartisan support, which in today’s political climate, that’s like a unicorn, right? That is like a unicorn. And then today, at about three o’clock this afternoon, East Coast time, it passed the House on the floor of the House, and it passed unanimously bipartisan support again. So we have with called the cove Zack computers for veterans and students.
What it is, is the federal government warehouse is somewhere between 305 100,000 computers a year, send them to the states, the states sell them for pennies on the dollar, usually for profit companies get those computers, and then they do with them what they will. We’re asking the federal government to help nonprofits that do what we do like there’s others like tech for troops, but they do students or they do rural areas or inner cities or whatever it is, whatever their constituency is, let us get first shot at those computers.
We can’t handle 500,000 computers a year. Yeah, know that. But tech for troops can handle like 10,000 and be able to blow it up for our veteran community and truly change the world. And there’s other nonprofits that could do the same thing. So we’re hoping we can find a way I think we have a Democrat, co sponsor as a senator that met Senator Hassan, I think she’s definitely Hampshire.
We need a Republican somewhere to make this bipartisan. And you know, I don’t know any Republican senators. I don’t know any senators, period. I don’t I don’t do the political thing very well, I probably need to get better at it. But we need the support from the senators to make this happen. And then President Biden could sell sign in into office not on Office, and the law and within a year computer stop flowing to us and we’d be able to help out a lot more folks, which would be really cool.
Damon Pistulka 39:18
Yeah, because you think about that if there are three to 500,000 computers that are going to wherever they’re going now they can be gone. You know, a good portion is going to be going to the people that really need it firsthand rather than trying to figure out other ways to get computers and do it and as we were talking before we got on is that you could help 1000s You’re going to try to help 750 You might get 800 or 850 You said but you could easily get 1000s of people, computers. If this passes
Mark Casper 39:54
if we could get this to pass and you know, just use a round number of 10,000 We got 10,000 computers in Not all of those would be usable. Yeah, right. There’ll be a lot of broken and cracked and all that kind of stuff, which is fine, we’ll responsibly recycle those. But let’s use 700 or 7500 would be good.
That is 7500 veterans for that year that we could say here. Right? Imagine that. Imagine that, just what we’d be able to do around the country to make it. And there’s not a state out there that doesn’t have veterans in need. So anybody out there and Wisconsin and Texas and Florida and California, you know, let your state representatives know, call your senator and say this will help our people, all of our people. Yeah, so we need your support on that.
Damon Pistulka 40:41
Yeah. And, you know, it’s this, this is something that I really do. And the other thing that you mentioned before we got on to is this, the budget oversight committee gave this a net zero cost.
Mark Casper 40:55
Yep, the CBO. We got it, we got to score and it was literally folks $0 out of your pocket to make this happen. Zero. I mean, it doesn’t make it doesn’t get any better for us as taxpaying citizens, when you know that the government is going to support constituents who need the support for free. It’s not because, you know, we’re not getting any money for this tech, the federal government’s not gonna say, Mark, we’re gonna give you a $50,000 a year to make this happen.
It’s, we’re gonna give computers and do it ourselves. Because that’s our mission. And we’re gonna make it happen. But yeah, I’ll be going to do is get the GSA, pass it, sign it, get the GSA and all they got to do is say, Hey, here’s a spreadsheet of computers. Here’s where they’re at, what do you need? And then we’re gonna make the shipping happen. Yeah, I’m paying shipping. I’ll pay shipping all day for this. Yeah. But that’s what we’re gonna do, because it’s not coming out of taxpayers pocket.
Damon Pistulka 41:49
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay. Very exciting. So we need a Republican senator to help sponsor this. We do. And All right, so anyone listening if you know, a Republican senator, that might want to sponsor this and get some good? Good plug, basically, because this would be a good one. Yeah, go ahead and go ahead and reach out to me and I will get you in touch with Mark and we can see this thing happen.
The other thing that I think is interesting about this is that, you know, it’s not just the veterans is going to help this is going to be a lot of people. I mean, this is widely, will be widely beneficial. And these computers, it’s not like we’re spending more money for these computers. They’re already bought, they’re already there. They’re already they’re just getting recycled into the right people. You think about, you know, we saw during the vid we had the children that are at home trying to learn we had all these other people, all these elderly people, if you just go around the board, this 500,000 computers that could be into circulation help these
Mark Casper 43:00
people? Yeah, when the vid head, I went out, did some quick research. And then I went to my board, but what I found in Virginia, was there are about 1.2 million students give or take round numbers, but about 250,000 of them don’t have a computer in the house. Yeah. So you take that number, and you say, All right, we want you to fail in life. Because you don’t have the tool of a computer. You don’t have to use a computer. And what’s that kid gonna do? Yeah, right. They’re not gonna go
Damon Pistulka 43:30
to college, or going down a wrong path.
Mark Casper 43:32
Yep. And think about it this way to active duty transitioning. If you’re a US Marine Corps, if you’re in your grunt your infantry, you’re carrying an M 16, and Mt. 40. Whatever that thing is, whatever that gun is. You’re not being taught how to use a computer. So when you get out and you don’t have that tool and know how to use it. What happens? Yep. So I mean, it’s not just yet the coves act if it passes and get signed into law. That is a game changer for the country. Yeah.
Damon Pistulka 44:08
Yeah. Good stuff. Well, I’m just excited that we can share that he did. It literally happened today. That’s the thing. That’s really that’s a crazy thing. Yeah, it is. Well, Mark, I just want you to thank you so much for being here today. It’s been awesome talking about tech for troops how you guys are taking in computers, recycling them, and then giving them to worthy veterans to show them how to use the computers, how to find a job with them, you’re helping them get their resumes right.
You said if somebody could help with financial management for these people, that would be awesome as well. So someone’s listening today that that understands a good financial management course or know somebody with a good course that want to donate and get donate that course so we could use it that would be great. Um, if you want to donate, they can get on your tech for troops.org.org. Tech for troops.org. It’s the CH, f o r t r o p s dot hierarchy hired. There we go, I can spell today. And what, what you ask the people to do is pay for the shipping for the computers to go Yeah, because that does help offset those costs and you will get those.
Mark Casper 45:29
So there are two quick things. One is for individuals, you have that computer that’s sitting in your closet, you’re like, I don’t want to know what to do with this and throw in the trash. But we have a program called Give Back box. It’s a $15 shipping label up to 35 pounds. Okay, it will come to us and we guarantee that instruction, I put the link to give back box tech for troops in the chat for you. Very good. And then the other thing is we’re in the process of creating an online learning platform. And the veterans who receive computers will be able to take project management it resume creation, some financial management if they want to go that route.
But there’s around 5000 classes that tech for troops is paying for the veterans to attend class certified certifiable not certifiable certificate classes. Right so the final crazy class with certificate classes and then they could get that badge and put it on LinkedIn and on their resume and stuff. And we’d love to have financial support for that as well because it’s going to cost us quite a bit and I have not done any fundraising for this one yet. We’re just I know it’s the right thing to do is the right direction to go in and I’m willing to put my reputation and life on the line but my reputation on the line that this is the right way for our veterans to learn from all over the country.
Damon Pistulka 46:48
Yeah, yeah well this is awesome so if there are any corporate sponsors out there anybody who wants to get involved with this and help to sponsor some of these programs please reach out to mark on LinkedIn Mark Casper Yes. And do that and connect with him and we can get make that happen. So Mark, thanks so much today for stopping by and talking about tech for troops man, you guys are doing a great service to our country helping those transition those veterans transition out of the military into the private sector. And you know, just helping to honor them for the wonderful things they did for our country. And you know their sacrifices
Mark Casper 47:27
Yeah, it’s been an absolute pleasure being with you and I have so enjoyed this. I really thank you. I owe you for this. Right I don’t I’ve never did ask you where you live? You might want to say it but I’ll buy you a beer next time right?
Damon Pistulka 47:42
Yeah, yeah, I’m in Seattle but that’s a little far away but that’s alright we do we’re well here so if you ever get
Mark Casper 47:49
bigger I can do that next time you have a beer raise one I bought a pie Well,
Damon Pistulka 47:53
there you go. Thanks a lot Mark. Thanks everyone else for listening today. You know we got one we had Inger we and others I don’t know it didn’t show their name but thanks so much for being here today.
We really appreciate your listen and appreciate you stopping by remember this two things one Republican senators anyone know the Republican senator that can help start help sponsor this computer’s for veterans and children’s man reach out to mark on that anything that anyone that wants to get involved and provide some financial support for the educational programs you guys are putting together some of these other things you’re doing just reach out to mark on LinkedIn.
But thanks so much everyone for being here. And we will be back again soon with another interesting guests on the face of the business but Mark thanks so much,
Mark Casper 48:43
sir. Thank you so much, sir.
Damon Pistulka 48:44
Have a great rest of your day everyone.
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