A local veteran turned his passion – barbeque – into a business that donates 100% of its profits to veterans organizations.
Steve Lulofs served 16 months in the US Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He returned home in 2005 and said her perception of how others live and what soldiers face at home completely changed.
“My military experience definitely changed who I was and who I am,” he said. “I definitely think, when I went to Iraq, it definitely changes people. I think I have a lot more compassion.”
Quinette King, and Iraq veteran and TLS Veterans (Transistional Living Spaces) caseworker, echoes the sentiment. “I come back from deployment and within a year, I was unemployed,” King said. “I had a child already and my husband is also a veteran and had employment troubles, and that’s how we ended up having housing issues.”
Spencer Hall, a fellow vet and TLS Veterans Business Development Assistant, said, “I think it’s just getting past that hurdle. If you’re just filling out an application, that’s the big part of the wall.”
Lulofs made it his mission to help veterans. After winning a March Madness bet a few years ago, he used the $300 winnings to buy his first smoker grill and entered a barbeque competition.
“I was into barbeque and I was watching barbeque shows, so I started thinking, ‘I’m going to get into barbeque!” he said.
To make his barbeque stand out in the competition, he made his own sauce – Veterans Q.
“It was ranked number one in our country for spicy sauces,” Lulofs said.
100% of the profits from his business are donated to veterans organizations. So far, he’s donated more than $3,000.
“Besides giving 100% of my profits away, maybe the end result is to help out all the local organizations that I can,” he said.
Outside of having a full-time career with the U.S. Department of Labor as an immigration analyst, and raising three kids with his wife Robin, Lulofs still finds time to give back.
“You know, a lot of veterans, there’s a lot of issues, especially with suicide,” he said. “There’s a lot of problems in the veteran community and I figured it’s a good way to give back and help out people I can relate to.”
One of the Veterans Associations Lulofs donates to is TLS Veterans, which assists with housing, food, clothes, and jobs.
Laura Franz, Executive Director with TLS, said, “When the doors open, they can come in and help themselves to clothing if they need it. Sometimes, they need it because they don’t have enough money for it, or they need clothing for interviews.”
The organization says it has seen how rough times can get for veterans, such as homelessness and suicidal thoughts.
Ryan Jacobsen, a case manager for TLS, knows firsthand about those challenges, having served in the U.S. Navy for over 20 years.
“I didn’t realize until I got out that the veterans were struggling,” Jacobsen said. “I had some stuff I was struggling with myself.”
TLS has made such a positive impact in veteran’s lives that some of the staff members were once on the receiving end. Now, it’s their personal mission to help their brothers and sisters in arms.
“The services we provide, whether it’s food, clothing, housing assistance, employment assistance… it’s very enlightening and it motivates me, day to day, to do it,” Jacobsen said.
Lulof’s next big BBQ catering event will be sponsoring the TLS fundraising gala on August 11th.