Dog Tag Bakery was founded to give back and help veterans find purpose after serving. And they also have absolutely delicious baked goods.
Meghan Ogilvie is the executive director and one of the original team members of the nonprofit organization. She is also a proud military brat. “I come from a Marine Corps family. I am the youngest of four children and my father served in the United States Marine Corps for 26 years and my sister served for six,” she shared. “My father told me that he would find my way to serve. When I met the co-founder, Richard Curry, he told me about this vision of creating an opportunity for our women and men to volunteer to serve their country. Not just at any opportunity, but at the best opportunity for them to feel like they have purpose again, understanding what it’s like to be successful, knowing that they may not be serving our country but their community.”
In 2014, Dog Tag Bakery launched its first scholarship program. Currently offered in Chicago and Washington, DC, those selected have the opportunity to earn a business certificate from Loyola University or Georgetown University. One of those individuals was Charles Jones.
“I enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school in 2003. Three weeks after I got my first unit, we were sent to Iraq for Fallujah,” he said.
Jones was stationed in the combat zone for 14 months, and although he got off to a rocky start with his eventual mentor, First Sergeant Jonathon Davis, the two formed a close relationship. He had finished his enlistment in the service and walked out of it, while Davis continued to wear the uniform.
While attending a hockey game, Jones’ phone began to ring. He was one of the Marines he had served with in Iraq, but he ignored him because he was in the game. When his friend called back right away, he knew something was terribly wrong.
On February 22, 2013, Davis was killed while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan.
Some time after the funeral, Davis’s wife sent a Facebook message to some of the Marines who had served with her late husband. Her request was to write some memories for her little son. “I sat in front of a computer, but I must have sat there for like 30 or 45 minutes at a time, just looking at Dear Calvin on the screen. I had no idea what to write,” Jones explained. “What do you say to a 4 year old? I thought there was no way I could explain the complexity of the friendship I had with him.”
Jones was candid in admitting that he had been struggling with his own issues after the service. But in 2017, he returned to normal and wanted to keep his promise. When he reached out to Davis’s wife to apologize, she revealed that none of the Marines had written letters, it wasn’t just him.
Although he wrote the letter, Jones felt that a video might be better for his young son. “So I thought the more Marines we got talking about him the better. So, I borrowed money everywhere. After finding a production company in Atlanta, I brought everyone to make it happen,” Jones shared.
The Dear Calvin Project was born, although Jones didn’t realize it at the time.
“At the video launch event, many people came up to me saying that I needed to do this for others. I didn’t really think much of it at the time because I just assumed this had already been done,” she said.
The mission to bring a true collection of memories to more families of the fallen a reality led him to create Survived, Inc. and develop the Dear Calvin Project. When he started building the business, he knew he needed help. Jones credits the Dog Tag Scholarship with changing everything.
“When I left the Marine Corps, I had no idea who I was. And that was what led to a lot of the darker parts of that time in my life,” he said. “It was a great program to be a part of and a really amazing group of people to meet and be a part of it was really special.”
Ogilvie gushed about Jones’ journey through it all. “I think the most impactful part of our program for him was really this recognition of self-care and community. And also knowing that you don’t have to do it alone,” he explained. I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’re also promoting, in that sense, you know, rebuilding this community differently. You have people around you who have different skill sets and support who want to be a part of your journey.”
Dog Tag Bakery now has over 190 alumni from the two locations. To learn more about their model or how you can stop by and try some really good coffee or baked goods, click here.