This time of year, there’s a bit of a Sunday tradition in our house. Sleep late, have a cup of coffee, pick up a Sunday paper, and go watch the Bears play (or, sadly, like they did this week, scramble ineffectively). I love my Sunday paper. Coupons, news, details on local events and volunteer opportunities – what’s not to love? And it’s especially nice when it gives me a lead on a new veteran-related organization, like it did with Rags of Honor, which was featured in the Parade section two weeks ago.
Rags of Honor is a silk screening company that solely hires homeless and unemployed vets. Located in Chicago, the for-profit company, whose tagline is “They had our backs. Let’s keep the shirt on theirs.”, was founded by Mark Doyle. Doyle, who has a background in finance and government consulting, including with big names like Clinton and Biden, deployed for a year to Afghanistan as a financial expert with Task Force 2010, an anti-corruption effort. When he returned home and began volunteering at a local homeless shelter, he couldn’t stomach the number of homeless veterans on the streets of Chicago – over 2,000 – and decided to do something about it.
A small – they have about 9 employees – but quickly growing operation, Rags of Honor opened almost two years ago and was started with money from Doyle’s personal savings. It handles custom and bulk silk screening orders. Originally started out of Doyle’s car, it now operates in a 2,000 sq ft warehouse filled with “state of the art” machinery. They’ve already made deals with the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, Walgreens, and even organizations trying to get a jump on the 2016 election.
They also have an online store where you can purchase a shirt with their logo, or one for your preferred military service, at a reasonable price ($17). All t-shirts are Made in the USA and produced, packaged, and shipped by veterans. Much of the money goes to train and pay (they make $12 an hour) the Rags of Honor employees.
One note (updated 1/27/15): When I originally wrote this post, I wrote that there wasn’t enough information about the non-profit side of Rags of Honor, the 501c3 Rags of Honor 1 Foundation, which claims to use their donations to help purchase furniture and other items for their veteran employees, for me to feel comfortable endorsing it. At the time, there was no EIN, the number that shows they are a registered 501c3, on their website and I was unable to locate them on the IRS listing of approved 501c3s, Charity Navigator, or Guide Star. I said that it was possible they had applied for that status and just not yet received it and I recently received an e-mail from Mark Doyle himself confirming that my assumption was correct. The company has applied for 501c3 status, though it hasn’t been granted yet, and its EIN is 46-4924505. Mark also let me know that the non-profit was formed after the for profit side and only when the need for services (i.e. the number of homeless veterans needing the kind of help Rags of Honor provides) exceeded Mark’s savings. Mark also let me know that a total of 18 veterans had passed through his program – some continue to work for Rags of Honor, while others have moved on to other opportunities – and that Rags of Honor is continuing on towards its goal to be the largest employer of homeless veterans in the country!
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