Sometimes doing something simply because you can is a really good thing.
For Kerry Rock and his wife Colleen, the driving philanthropic forces behind Dogood Cville, it’s the main thing.
The pair, and their organization, have collected coats for the cold and homeless, brewed blueberry beer for the hungry, supported the Haven day shelter in Charlottesville and cleansed the grime from the gravestones of veterans.
“We have full time jobs during the day and Dogood is our passion project that we do in the evenings and on the weekends,” Kerry Rock said. “We have regular nine to five-ish jobs so when it’s time to put a Dogood event together it’s let’s put the baby to bed, open a bottle of wine and plan this thing out.”
There is no personal remuneration to the Rocks from Dogood Cville, except knowing that they could do something for someone and did it.
“Once someone said ‘why are you doing this?’ I said because ‘we can.’” said Kerry Rock. “If you have the ability to do good, you ought to do it. The first question should not be why are you doing this? The first question should be why are others not doing this?”
Kerry Rock started doing good things for others around 2013. One of his first events was organizing a brunch for the Sexual Assault Resource Agency. He had a little extra cash and was tired of chilling out on the Downtown Mall.
“It was a cool event and cool to do and I really wanted to build it up into a business, promoting events,” he recalled. “I tried to think of it as a business but couldn’t get it to work at all, so it just sort of went to the side. Then I started just doing charity things left and right.”
One successful effort was a Tough Mudder event, a challenging mud-bath of an obstacle course that raised funds for wounded troops.
“I bet my team that if we raised $1,000, I’d get a Mohawk,” he recalled. “At that time I was a systems administrator at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the director was down on the floor that week that I had the mohawk. He was with a group of people in uniform and I’m walking by with my notepad and doing my work with a full, circular saw type mohawk. He looks at me and does the one-finger point and come here motion.”
Rock went there.
“He says, ‘what’s going on?’ I told him I did it as a fundraiser for a veteran’s organization and he said ‘you keep it as long as you want.’ So I kept it a while longer,” Rock recalled.
Although his attempt at business involved doing good, Rock said the effort never totally got off the ground. He had some difficulty in his personal life, including a divorce.
“My mind wasn’t right. I was doing it to get in front of the camera and get the glory out of it and it all came crashing down,” he said.
Some of that difficulty was Rock’s change of jobs, moving to civilian from the U.S. Army’s 179th Airborne Combat Brigade, a rapid-response, front-line, tip-of-the-spear paratroop unit that fought in Iraq to a civilian.
It is not a rare event.
“Many [service members] had found a mission in service to their country and struggle to adapt and find similar grounding in civilian life. There’s an abundance of ways to cope, many of which are destructive,” said a retired medical provider who met Rock at the Veteran’s Administration. He asked that his name not be used because of confidentiality agreements with many clients.
“Some find new missions and re-devote themselves to community service. That is the highest level of adaptation. I’m a great believer in process and Kerry and his wife, Colleen, demonstrate the very best in that trait. They work hard on good causes for altruistic reasons, they are persistent and they truly fill community needs with no big fuss,” he said. “I admire Kerry and the example he sets for all of us.”
For Rock, it was a matter of whether he wanted to be the guy closing down the bar at 2 a.m. or the man who spends spare time running coat drives, washing tombstones or making blueberry beer for charity.
“I found I could be a good guy again. It was a second lease on love and life,” he said.
When he made the decision, things took off.
“Prior to forming Dogood, we’d been helping out with other efforts. I had a good network of people I knew in town and had a good relationship with bartenders and all the owners of the breweries and they knew when I’d ask for something, I was asking for other people. They knew it was a good thing to do,” Rock said.
“One day we were at Champion Brewery downtown on a November night and we started to get cold so we went to our cars, got our jackets, came back and sat back down,” Rock recalled. “We were enjoying our beers and then suddenly thought, hey, what if we didn’t have jackets?”
A quick request to Champion Brewery owner Hunter Smith led to the first coat drive.
“I was happy doing random good things but Colleen said the whole thing was bigger than us and that it needs to have an identity and a professional name,” he recalled.
As Dogood did good things, good things kept happening to Kerry and Colleen Rock’s charity. Chris Long’s Waterboys Foundation invited Rock to go to Africa and the Chris Long Foundation has helped Dogood with events.
“Being around people like Chris Long encourages the things I do. He’s someone who could sit around and make bank off of his podcasts and whatever and not have to do anything, but instead he’s doing project after project, it encourages you to do good,” Rock said.
“When you’re around someone who starts an international movement to bring people clean water and all of the other things he’s done, it makes you want to do more,” he said.
Rock will join Long and his Waterboys in a trip to Africa in February to work on water well projects and climb Kilimanjaro. When he returns, he will spend a little time with Colleen, his daughter and a new addition to the family due in January.
“We’re still going to do events, help people move money to help others and advocate for the Haven, but we’re also going to focus on the family a bit,” he said. “We’ll still give our time, but we’re going to take a little time for ourselves.”