Force to workforce, Aurora vets find a junky market niche

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AURORA | Matthew Beals spent many steamy, sandy days riding aboard a military 2.5-ton, “deuce and a half” truck when he was living on Kirkuk Air Base in northern Iraq. A staple of U.S. Army transport for the past 60 years, trips in the triple-axle machine were routine for Beals and his fellow infantrymen from 2002-2005, and again when he was tapped for a third tour of duty as a National Guardsman in 2008.

“They carried us around anywhere that we needed to go while on post,” Beals said.

Now, 10 years later, Beals is still riding around in one of the 5,000-pound behemoths. But this time, it’s in Aurora.

Matthew Beals, left, and Daniel Gibson pose in a deuce-and-a-half that they use for the Colorado CleanUp Coalition on Tuesday April 21, 2015 at VFW Post 1. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)
Matthew Beals, left, and Daniel Gibson pose in a deuce-and-a-half that they use for the Colorado CleanUp Coalition on Tuesday April 21, 2015 at VFW Post 1. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

Beals is the co-founder of the Colorado Cleanup Coalition, an Aurora-based large volume junk removal company that specializes in abating the years of clutter retained by people with hoarding disorder. Along with business partner and fellow veteran Dan Gibson, the duo started the company last year after working together for several years at a competing large item removal service in the metro area. After realizing just how underserved many hoarders are, the team parted ways with their employer, purchased their very own truck for $9,000 and founded CCC.

“It just came with trial and error and that realization when you get out the military — especially when you’ve been in a combat role — that you kind of lose that meaning in life,” Beals said. “I was once willing to die for my country and my friends, now what am I going to do? But once I was able to take the importance off myself and place it back on other people, and particularly the really under-spoken crowd of hoarders, that has been my own therapy.”

That professional and personal purgatory that Beals faced is common for veterans looking to re-enter the workforce, and a process that typically takes between 18 and 26 months, according to Ron Perea, talent placement manager for Arapahoe/Douglas Works. Perea helps to run several programs for veterans looking to jump back into, or sometimes take the initial leap toward employment. Arapahoe/Douglas Works offers dozens of services for veterans of all ages, ranging from resume building to bolstering interview skills to how to navigate the federal government’s notoriously wonky application site.

“Not all of our vets are young guys coming off of deployment, which surprises some people,” Perea said. “We have Vietnam vets who come in and need help with social media and marketing themselves, too.”

Of the roughly 11.8 million veterans employed or looking for employment in 2010, half were from the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War eras, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The remainder was 10 percent of veterans from the second Gulf War era, 13 percent from the first Gulf War era and 27 percent from other periods of service.

On top of services from Arapahoe/Douglas Works, for the past three years the Aurora Small Business Development Center has partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration to offer the Boots to Business program, which provides interested veterans with up to eight weeks of classes on how to start their own businesses. Last year, a graduate of the Aurora-based program received a federal grant for his business plan, which centered on a concept that allowed citizens to electronically identify broken or damaged street lights with QR codes to improve neighborhood safety.

“A lot of vets don’t know we have these wonderful resources available to them, and we’ve gotten very high, positive feedback on the programs,” said Chuck Hahn, small business specialist with the Aurora Small Business Development Center.

Despite the slew of available veteran employment services in the metro area, Beals said he and Gibson started CCC largely on their own, outside of select support services from the Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost in Denver. But the CCC tandem hasn’t realized their overall business plan just yet.

After completing his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix earlier this month, Beals said he plans on pursuing a graduate degree in counseling or social work at the University of Denver in the coming years. With an advanced degree, Beals aims to combine his knowledge of psychology with CCC to better serve his clients.

“We’re trying to be different from everybody, because nobody else provides that integrated approach of not only cleaning up a hoarder’s home, but also making sure they don’t return back to that hoarding situation,” Beals said. “It took a few years for me to reintegrate into civilian society, but with the psychology degree and this business my life has really been shaped through altruism — it’s been amazing.”

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Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
7 years ago

Lots of hoarders out there. I once came across a fellow who was an “organized” hoarder … one with stacks of newspapers, boxes of glass bottles, hundreds of pizza boxes, etc etc etc … all separated in different corners of the house. Also, quite an assortment of junk in garage and back yard, including what was left of an old rusting car.