Owners of New Firewood Business Dedicated to Helping Reduce Veteran Suicide & Heal Hurting Vets
Firewood is always in demand and the inspiration to create a large-scale firewood distribution model unlike anything ever seen before in the state of Kentucky is something that has been percolating in the mind of Eddie Hager for some time.
Hager’s two partners in Big Timber are Todd Dunn and Rick Gaddy. Though Big Timber is in its infancy stage of operation, Hager, Dunn and Gaddy have been talking about its development for the past year.
“It took money, time and dedication to make this happen,” Dunn says. “We decided to take action and make the dream a reality.”
“No cellulose material is thrown away,” Hager adds. “We’ve not had to haul anything off the property. Everything is being used in every aspect.”
Their combined experience made them the perfect team, with Dunn’s knowledge of streamlining production with the Ford Motor Company and Hager’s business knowledge of pushing his men to get things done.
“And I’m so glad that Rick Gaddy is on board with this production,” Hager says. “He’s a machine and will work seven days a week, if need be.”
Since Hager had been in tree business for so long, he asked himself what he could do with all the big logs as he hated to see them go to waste.
“Our portions on our wood are hearty,” Hager says. “With the name Big Timber, we want it to be big and better.”
Hager traveled to Turin, Italy to meet with the owner of a factory that produces the TB 900 Pezzolato Firewood Processor, a computerized state-of-the-art wood processor that can handle 36-inch diameter logs. The machine was mighty impressive but also came with a hefty price tag: $600,000. Ultimately, Hager decided it was worth the cost and he had it imported and set up — a feat that required several cranes to assemble.
“We already had a small market for bulk firewood, but tapping into the firewood industry was my and Todd’s dream,” Hager says. “Now it’s happening as we speak.”
One of the things that Hager felt strongly about was wanting American wood to be sold in America rather than European white birch, which he says is not even a good wood.
“We are all about America,” Hager says. “That’s why we want to build this business up because it’s not fair for Americans to not be able to keep a job. I want jobs to stay here and put money back into the economy. We’ve got plenty of wood in America and we want to keep Americans’ homes warm with it.”
An additional way Hager, Dunn and Gaddy serve their country is by supporting Active Heroes, a non-profit whose mission is to support U.S. military service members, veterans and their families through physical, educational and emotional programs in an effort to eliminate suicide.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), on average, 132 suicides occur each day – more than 15% of those are veterans. Dunn, who is on the Board of Directors of Active Heroes, served in Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991.
“I have two awesome kids, but I struggled with thoughts of suicide,” Dunn says. “I want to help others who struggle with those same dark thoughts.”
President of Active Heroes, Troy Yocum, was so dedicated to raising funds to help military families that in 2010-2011 he marched 7,800 miles across the country. He’s grateful to the owners of Big Timber who care a great deal about veterans.
“It is companies like this that really support the veteran community,” Yocum says. “Organizations like Active Heroes that strive to reduce veteran suicide are impacted in great ways from businesses that give back.”
When Dunn presented the idea of partnering with Active Heroes to Hager and Gaddy, they were immediately on board. Not only do they donate a portion of all Big Timber sales to Active Heroes but they also helped build the Active Heroes Retreat Center in Shepherdsville, Ky. Open to military families free of charge, visitors can relax on the beautiful 147-acre facility to recharge, reconnect and replenish their mental resources. The retreat offers activities such as family day/camping, archery, hiking trails and a playground.
Dunn helped build two cabins on the property and is working on building a third in addition to a welcome center/pavilion as well as horse riding stables.
“It’s a place for veterans and their families to go to heal,” Dunn says. “And this is important because currently approximately 22 veterans a day take their life, which equates to more than 600 veteran suicides a month. That’s why a place like this is so important.”
They have put roughly $1.75M into this facility, including buildings and amenities. Response from veterans so far has been extremely positive. Dunn shares the story of a veteran with bladder cancer who went to the Active Heroes Retreat Center with his wife and daughter.
“The man said he didn’t know what faith was until he came here,” Dunn says.
For more information on Big Timber, visit them online at bigtimberfirewood.com or give them a call at 502-326-3661.