Georgia Family Outdoors is a group on a mission. The four individuals who are at the core of the organization are dedicated to helping others. While the ultimate goal for the group’s future is to help members of the community, right now their main focus is on giving back to those who have already given so much of themselves, military men and women both active and discharged. The organization is still in its infancy. At this time, they have finished the Articles of Incorporation and are actively pursuing their 501(c)19 which would establish them as non-profit organization strictly for veterans.
The Men Behind Georgia Family Outdoors
Mike Tomidajewicz and Anthony Gill are both former military. Mike also has a history in law enforcement. Both men have been to combat and know what many veterans face once they return home. Both are well aware of the trials these men and women face as well as the toll that they take on both the soldier and their loved ones. The two friends are bound together, not so much by simple friendship, but by the brotherhood that was established through their service to home and country.
While Mike and Anthony are the driving force behind the organization, each has a significant other who is always at the ready to do what needs to be done and make sure the guys stay focused on their goals. Stacy Jean, Mike’s fiance, and Mallory, Anthony’s wife, work hand in hand to make sure things run smoothly. Both are just as committed to GFO as their men and try to help out wherever they are needed, either with the organization or out in the community.
From One Vet to Another
An organization that is dedicated to providing a service to veterans will only succeed if those within that organization are veteran’s themselves. Anthony is a Purple Heart recipient and Mike Tomidajewicz is former Military Police. Having served overseas in combat situations, both men know exactly what some of these soldiers have been through. They can understand the stress and frustration these soldiers feel. “As a vet, you can relate to another vet a lot better. We want that connection. Anthony’s going to school for psychology so he’ll be able to help with some of the mental aspects of it,” said Mike.
Camping and Hunting Trips
One of the goals of GFO is to offer veterans, both active and discharged, an opportunity to go on one-on-one hunting and camping trips. Mike said, “We’re going to have four hunting stands this year, which is going to double what we’ve got now.” Part of the goal behind the hunting trips is to allow the vet to get away from the stress and frustration for a short period of time. While the group doesn’t guarantee the hunter will bag a deer or hog, they do guarantee companionship. Anthony said, “As far as the hunt, it comes down to helping these guys. It’s not about a kill at all. I would rather not kill anything at all but have a good conversation in that tree stand. It’s the therapy of it.”
All of the hunts are held on private property. There is no charge for the hunt but GFO requires that the hunter already have their hunting license. GFO will also supply the weapons if necessary. They can even offer bows for hunters who would prefer not to use a gun or muzzleloader. The group works with several veterans’ organizations that will nominate vets who meet the criteria to go on one of the hunts. Anthony said, “We’re going to be screening the vets to make sure they are good with it. We don’t want to put ourselves in danger or set them back.”
It’s About Helping Others
For the staff of Georgia Family Outdoors, it’s all about helping others. While the biggest focus right now is getting the veteran’s programs up and running, they also hope to work with some of the underprivileged kids in the area as well. Many times, you can see them working alongside Officer Jennifer Crapps of the Waycross City Police Department spending time with the kids, passing out candy, or just talking to them. Stacy Jean said, “I respect her a lot for all of the things she does with the kids and for the community.”
Recently, they were called to help find a little boy who had run away from home after a caseworker failed to follow through with a promise that had been made. The team knew the little boy loved nature and went into high gear to help find him and bring him safely home. They found the child and have made plans to take the boy and his father fishing in the near future.
The staff also offers survival classes at Laura S. Walker Park in Waycross. It’s just one way the team has found that they can make a difference in their community. Working in conjunction with Ranger Jordan, the Park’s manager, the group has helped to turn the park’s financial situation around. Mike said, “This is the first time in eight years that the park has actually pulled a profit or met their goals for the year.”
The staff was quick to point out that the camping and hunting trips are not just for men. Women who have served in the armed forces are also welcome. Both Stacy Jean and Mallory have offered to help provide the same type of companionship for the female vets as Mike and Anthony offer to the men. The goal is to provide every veteran with an opportunity to experience either a camping trip or a hunt that they can enjoy and have a good time away from the stress of their day to day routine.
Bringing It All Together
Eventually, the group would like to offer survival classes every couple of weeks at Laura S. Walker Park for both children and their parents. At the end of the summer, GFO would then take the group on a camping trip where they could put all of the skills they learned to good use. Local police officers would also be involved, both in nominating kids for the program as well as stepping up and participating in some of the classes. Their goal is to bring the community together and give many of these kids a chance they may not have otherwise had.
As of right now, this strong-willed group of four is funding the entire project on their own. They have received no donations from outside sources. Once the group has their 501(c)19, they hope to change that. With the donations they receive, they could eventually expand their programs to include police officers, EMT’s, firefighters, and other service-oriented groups. By helping those who serve others, they can remain true to their mission statement. Simply put it is the goal of Georgia Family Outdoors “To Serve Those Who Protect.”