Freedom Hill Coffee Roasters Creates Mission Driven Business for Mental Health & Veterans Affairs
Coffee is part of the American lifestyle but at Freedom Hill Coffee Roasters in Antrim County’s Bellaire, it’s more than just perfecting that morning cup of java.
“We roast coffee, we roast fresh daily but we also offer the opportunity to give back. Every time you wake up and your coffee routine is Freedom Hill Coffee, you know you’re helping put veterans to work,” says veteran and owner of Freedom Hill Coffee Roasters, Scott Thomas.
Started in February 2020, Freedom Hill Coffee not only roasts and packages their coffee but ships it across the country to all 50 states and around the globe through e-commerce. Scott Thomas is a veteran after serving Iraq in 2005, and wanted the business to be mission driven.
“A big part of our mission is a couple of charities because we are for profit business but a portion of all proceeds goes to Mission 22. They’re based out of the west coast but they work at army bases and posts all across the country with soldiers getting out of the service to connect them with resources to finding employment and any dealing with any traumas or mental issues or physical disabilities. We also work with Comfort Farms down in Georgia that was founded by a disabled army ranger,” says Thomas.
For Scott and his wife, Jill the business has become a means to raise awareness for veterans experiencing post traumatic stress disorder and to end any stigmas associated with mental illness. It’s a personal story that goes back several years before the idea of Freedom Hill Coffee Roasters started brewing.
“Our story does go back. We were married young when he was deployed in our early 20s,” says co-owner, Jill Thomas.
“In 2001, it was my first year at Western Michigan. I was a ROTC cadet and a lot of the guys were joining the service ahead of their career and I joined the Michigan National Guard in 2004 and was then deployed to active duty pretty shortly afterward and did one tour in Iraq. I was injured so left a little bit before my unit,” says Scott.
“I knew I was waiting back here for him to return and willing to support him on whatever the next path might be,” says Jill.
A path that’s different for all veterans as they return back to a new way of life. Both Scott and Jill were living in Chicago after Scott returned from Iraq, adjusting to their new way of life.
“I think that’s a pretty common experience a lot of veterans share that can lead to isolation and if you’ve gone through some traumas and combat and lost friends and not having folks to share that with, but things that occur in the military service is often unfamiliar to those closest to you. So, a lot of guys and gals have to manage that alone which is hard,” says Scott.
A situation Scott knew all too well. One of Scott’s best friends, Brian struggled with life after the service.
“Brian one of my best friends growing up. He was in a lot of combat in Afghanistan. That was before mental health was important as it is now or is as easy as it is to talk about now. I think we have learned a lot as a country and with the VA over the last 20 years and it’s easier to talk about things, which is good encouraging veterans to get help. When Brian had visited, he and I actually went to counseling together a few times because I was trying to link him up with the resources that could help him out,” says Scott.
On an early February morning in 2013, Scott got a call that Brian had taken his own life the night before. It was a reality that changed Scott’s life forever and lit a fire inside of him.
“I want veterans to know and people who are in veterans’ lives to know there are great resources out there and when you’re dealing with depression or managing trauma. They might not be able to be solved overnight but they’re all things that can be helped with tremendous amounts of resources out there,” says Scott.
Freedom Hill Coffee Roasters has become one of those resources in honor of Brian and all veterans of every era. A portion of every sale and coffee subscription goes to putting veterans to work here in northern Michigan and beyond… making connections with those currently serving.
“We get responses from them. We get photos of them overseas, holding our coffee with letters saying this really brightened their day,” says Jill.
For Scott, Freedom Coffee enabled him to discover his passion of helping fellow veterans and even those currently in the military.
“Using the GI Bill, he did finally go back and get his degrees in business which I was so proud of him for and he had to do that while being a father and husband and three kids and drove him to want to get up and work harder and do more, I could appreciate that. I had watched him go through a journey of searching for the right thing and he’s grown in so many ways. So, it’s amazing to watch as his wife and partner and I’m just so proud of him that he’s reached that and that’s what wen want for all service members and everybody that’s given so much and sacrificed. We want to show them they can come home and find a purpose as well and find peace,” says Jill.
For more information about Freedom Hill Coffee Roasters and to place order for e-commerce shipments, click here.