Joe Rhodes and other members of the Kniestedt Foundation are taking a unique approach to raising money to help veterans struggling with their return to civilian life. The Kniestedt Foundation is selling its own barbecue sauce: Gravick Ranch Big 5 Single Batch Sauce.
Rhodes and others involved with the foundation like to barbecue but never could quite find the right taste with the sauces that were available. They wanted their own with a bit of a kick to it and that is not full of artificial flavors or ingredients.
“I don’t think we can technically say it’s all natural, but it’s pretty dang close to all natural,” Rhodes said. “This is real barbecue sauce, so if you were to go to a barbecue restaurant, this is the type of thing you would find, and that’s what we wanted to be able to give people. We wanted ours to be unique in quality, unique in flavor, and unique in what the proceeds go towards.”
All proceeds from Gravick Ranch Big 5 go toward funding the Kniestedt Foundation, an organization that helps veterans and active duty service members to transition back into civilian life through outdoor experiences and the building of relationships.
The sauce was developed over a year and a half time period. The foundation picked up its first batch in September, which was 554 bottles. Rhodes picked up the bottles at 4:30 p.m. and was worried about whether or not they would sell. By 6 a.m. the next morning, he and other members of the foundation had sold 600 bottles, having to buy into the next batch.
Rhodes and the Kniestedt Foundation were touched by the community’s support in the sale and purchase of Gravick Ranch Big 5.
“It was very special for us, especially for me as a graduate of Perryville High School and as a guy who grew up there to have people come on board, like Rozier’s and Kohlfeld Distributing,” Rhodes said. “Those people believed in the idea, and I think that to have reputable businesses in that area that believed in us has been paramount for us.”
While the proceeds from Gravick Ranch Big 5 are currently going straight to the Kniestedt Foundation, Rhodes hopes to soon get to the point where the foundation can use those funds to support other non-profit organizations.
Another reason Rhodes and other foundation members decided to create and sell their own sauce was because they wanted to give people other options concerning how they can give. People often think that they have to write a check every time, and while that can be helpful, Rhodes said that it is not the only way to help.
“We were looking for unique ways to help raise money for the foundation,” he said.
The Kniestedt Foundation was founded in 2015 by Jim Kniestedt, who served in the Army Special Forces. He now works as a security contractor and has transitioned well into civilian life.
“He had this desire to give back,” Rhodes said. “He knows that he had that successful transition, but there’s a lot of people that didn’t. … Throughout his professional career, he’s wanted the opportunity to be able to do something like this, and in 2015 it was just the right time.”
Knowing that many veterans are not so fortunate in their adjustments, Rhodes and Kniestedt began looking into ways to help veterans transition back into civilian life more easily. The foundation is a non-profit organization that takes veterans or active duty service men and women for outdoor experiences in order to talk to them and see how to help them transition back into civilian life.
“One thing we knew was that outdoor experiences, whether it be hunting, fishing, hiking, whatever it may be, we had a really strong grasp on that, so we decided to use that avenue as an icebreaker to beginning to know these individuals,” Rhodes said. “At that point, as we broke that ice, we had conversations with people about what they need in their lives and how we can better assist them. … That outdoor event is the beginning, and what we’re looking to do is use that opportunity to gain a relationship with guys and girls that may need that long-term assistance. … After some of the trauma that these people have endured, it needs to be a process, and we’re willing to walk with them in that process.”