Bridging the Gap for Veterans, a 501(c)(3) that helps veterans establish careers, was created by retired USAF – Command Chief Master Sergeant, Mike Ferraro. During his 32 years of service, Ferraro was able to identify the challenges facing transitioning military personnel.
“Veterans rejoining civilian culture, and particularly seeking work in it, was an open wound that I wished to dress,” Ferraro said.
Nearly 200 companies and 1,000 honorably discharged soldiers have “Bridged the Gap” through the organization’s efforts.
Solely reliant on corporate donations and grants, Ferraro realized that the organization had to create a predictable and sustainable revenue stream to support its various programs.
As an avid coffee lover, who grew tired of disappointing burnt, or bitter cups of java, Ferraro decided to create a better product. He established The Coffee Platoon, the coffee brand that was born in 2019 to raise funds for Bridging the Gap.
After dozens of samplings (at Brick Township-based roaster Corim), Ferraro discovered the perfectly sourced beans – and the desired roasting qualities – for his brand. The packaging was designed so that every bag of grounds, whole bean, or K-cup boxes, saluted each branch of the armed forces. With such names such as Semper Fi (for Marines), or Aim High (for Air Force), supporters could now enjoy purchasing according to their affiliation or legacy. Ferraro placed a large first order with his roaster, simply to have product samples on hand and with the hopes that retail locations might want to sell it.
Coffee Platoon was ready to roll out! But then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Mandated restrictions made personal introductions to prospects extremely difficult. However, Ferraro persevered with the creation of the Coffee Commander Program. Companies could now purchase a (tax deductible) six month’s supply of coffee and donate it to a military unit or first responder outfit of their choosing. “It was a perfect time in our nation’s history to offer a contactless – yet most sincere, ‘Thank you for your service!’” Ferraro said.
Consequently, many local (nationally recognized) grocery chains agreed to stock and sell The Coffee Platoon brand. The public’s respect for the sacrifices that all veterans make – coupled with their difficulties of readjusting to the workforce (Bridging the Gaps’ core focus) – is why Ferraro did not get stuck with tons of coffee sitting in his house. It wasn’t the smooth taste or cool packaging that motivated 180 corporations to join Coffee Commander … it was gratitude and patriotism that salvaged this novel venture!
Additionally, during this odd and trying time, while so many brave souls were on the front lines of everyday life in our own communities, Bridging the Gap developed a Hometown Heroes campaign to reward all vocations of front-line workers, as well as first responders and veterans.
Ferraro said that veteran-friendly employers “find veteran hires to be more dependable. However, with constant military-to-civilian transition flow (1,200 per year in Central New Jersey alone) more veterans need to know about this organization!” Ferraro said.
Bridging the Gap’s services and programs are free to veterans. For more information, please visit https://bridgingthegap.vet
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