This article appears in the November issue of 400 Life.
If someone has served their country or community, they shouldn’t have to worry about the little challenges in life when things get tough — that is the goal that drives Mission Overwatch and its founders, Stephen Maddox and Troy Embrey.
Over the last three years Mission Overwatch, a Forsyth County nonprofit aimed at helping veterans and first responders, has been helping out in the Forsyth County community by cutting grass, doing yard work and covering all the things that can fall behind when a person gets hurt and needs time to get back on their feet.
Whether it’s something as simple as lawn care and house work or as specialized as plumbing help or HVAC repair, when it comes to first responders and veterans in the community, Embrey and Maddox say they are willing to do whatever they need to “serve people that deserve to be served.”
“In our mind, those people served our country, those people served the county. Why do they have to have something as simple as their grass serviced, why do they have to pay for that?” Embrey said. “That’s something the community should just provide.”
According to Embrey and Maddox, the idea for Mission Overwatch arose about four years ago after the two men retired from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, where they worked together in the sheriff’s office’s traffic and SWAT units.
Maddox said he made the decision to leave the sheriff’s office and get out of law enforcement after suffering a terrible back injury in 2013, which put him in surgery after surgery.
He said that during his time of recovery, not being able to personally attend to simple things like yard work made him feel helpless, and with medical bills and a law enforcement salary, paying for someone to do those chores for him was out of the question.
“When you get in to law enforcement, you don’t get into it for the money; you get into it because it’s a calling,” he said. “And any little bit you have to pay somebody to do something, especially when you are out of work, that’s money taken away from your family.”
But after recovering from his back injury, Maddox said that he felt like God called on him to step up and help others, and he knew who he wanted to help.
“I had the idea and it was more of a thing that God was leading me to do, to start a nonprofit to help the disabled vets in the community and the injured first responders because every time I had surgery I was down and I was not able to do simple stuff like yard work,” he said.
From his time as a sheriff’s deputy, Maddox says he knew there were disabled veterans all over the community that could use a little extra help and if they heard about a first responder that was injured, Mission Overwatch could step up and pitch in, free of charge, so that person could focus on getting better.
“I hope we never ever have to be called by a first responder to help them because I don’t want any of them to get hurt to that point,” he said. “But if they do, we will definitely step in and help them however we can so they don’t have to worry about simple stuff around the house.”
And when Embrey heard his friend’s idea, he knew it was something that he wanted to get on board with.
“Stephen came to me one day when we were hanging out and said, ‘It’s on my heart to start a nonprofit that serves disabled veterans,’” Embrey said. “When he said that, it kind of set off a light bulb in my head and that began the journey.”
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After the 10-month process of getting their 501c3 nonprofit certification and working with local sponsors to secure funding for the project, Mission Overwatch began working with local veterans in the community, helping with the simple stuff where they could and cutting a lot of grass.
“It’s awesome to help them,” Maddox said. “It’s not about me and Troy, it’s about doing God’s work and going out to help people and showing them the respect they deserve.”
As Mission Overwatch grew and the two men worked with more and more people, Embrey said they began to amass a network of contacts beyond the scope of simple yardwork. Eventually, they had the ability to help with things like plumbing, roofing, HVAC and other skilled tasks that they couldn’t do themselves.
“I have a guy we can call if we have someone with a vehicle issue, I have a roofer, a concrete guy, an HVAC guy, a plumbing guy. We have someone we can call at a moment’s notice if a disabled veteran or an injured first responder comes to our attention in need,” he said. “And most of the time those contractors don’t ever want to be named and they will come out and do it for free.”
Today, according to Maddox, the majority of Mission Overwatch’s clients come from referrals via the group’s Facebook page. He said that the number of people they help varies from month to month, but every week, without fail, they are out cutting grass in the community.
“It’s a type of relaxation for me,” Maddox said. “It’s something that we enjoy doing, giving back.”