Andy is a proud US Army Veteran who deployed with his 169th SOC family in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and also served as GEN Martin Dempsey's photographer and driver. Andy also is a former law enforcement officer who assisted various agencies throughout West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
Andy understands all too well the struggles of many military veterans face while transitioning back into the civilian workforce after serving in the military and as an officer. Unfortunately there aren't many options available for those heroes during their time of transition. Therefore, QRF Staffing and Consulting was born. Please feel free to drop us a line if we can help in any way possible.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Andy McKee has gone from being an American hero, to also being WSAZ's Hometown Hero.
McKee, of Huntington, deployed in 2009 to serve in the U.S. Army in Iraq. He speaks fondly about his time in the military.
"You learn a lot about yourself," said McKee. "You learn a lot about what you can endure."
He not only knows first-hand about the challenges soldiers face overseas, but about the challenges they face when they come home. The stress and trauma of war can create a lot of demons inside of a person, he says. Many veterans return with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) Others just struggle with finding a new income and transitioning back into civilian life.
"A lot of times that overwhelming feeling turns into destructive behavior and that's what I'm trying to, in my small way, be able to help," said McKee.
Now, McKee has a new mission.
He created a non-profit called QRF Staffing and Consulting (QRF is a military acronym.) He says his 501(c)(3) was just approved recently to be a tax-exempt charity.
The non-profit will be all-inclusive, but geared towards veterans and former first responders.
"It's going to be a job-training facility, a career transition assistance center, resource facility," said McKee.
The goal is to help people find jobs and just offer general support for veterans going through a tough transition after coming back home.
McKee says there aren't enough resources right now and that veterans often have to "check every box" to qualify for assistance with certain agencies, which McKee says can be very difficult.
"This is something that needs to happen," said McKee. "I wish an organization like what I'm doing existed when I was going through my darkest times.
"The non-profit is still in its infancy. McKee works out of his home right now, but he is working on getting grant money to get up and running.
In the meantime, he survives on VA disability because he wants to put all of his time into the non-profit. He says he knows it's a risk not having more of an income right now, but he truly believes in what he is doing.
How does he plan to spend all of his time if he's not working a full-time paying job? He also just created QRF Delivery. It's another method to fund the non-profit.
"It's basically a service that will deliver anything to you in exchange for a donation to the non-profit organization," said McKee.
He will deliver groceries, food from a restaurant that doesn't deliver, medicine when you're sick, furniture you can't fit in your car but McKee can fit in his SUV, and much more. Even if it's a trip you just don't want to make yourself, whether you're stuck at work or avoiding snow-covered roads, McKee will make it for you.
There will be no flat rate. All he asks for in return is that you make a donation to the non-profit.
He hopes the money will cover his gas and the rest will go to the charity.
"Order it to go and I'll go get it for ya," said McKee.
Driving out of town will be on a case by case basis, he said. He imagines that anywhere within 40 miles will be OK, but he is willing to make exceptions.
Building up trust and clientele will take some time, but McKee has faith in this being a popular and handy service for the community.
You may also recognize his vehicle as well. Many know McKee as "Uber Andy" because of his time spent working for the driving service. His ride was well-known around town as the "party bus" for the flashing disco lights, music and water bottles for the not-so-sober passengers.
McKee drove the fun ride to make extra money and cut down on drinking and driving.
Now, he feels like his vehicle can serve a greater purpose -- helping out veterans and the community at the same time.
Eventually, he would like to have a website or app for the delivery service. While he will not use money from the service to support himself right now, he hopes the idea will take off and that one day the non-profit will become big enough to be able to pay himself and a staff salaries. Until then, he is just staying positive and looking for potential partners.
The long-term goal for McKee is to have such a successful charity that he can open satellite branches all across the country to help veterans and first responders live their best possible lives after.
This single dad's willingness to put his life on the line in the military, then his livelihood on the line for a good cause is what makes him a WSAZ Hometown Hero.
Click here to learn more about the non-profit organization: www.qrfstaffing.org