Jeremiah Montell Catches A Westport Lift

Three years ago, Jeremiah Montell weighed 320 pounds. He took 15 different medications. He made 3 suicide attempts.

Montell had recently retired as a Navy petty officer 2nd class, due to injuries sustained in combat. He’d deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq — after serving in both places earlier, as a Marine.

Fortunately, he learned about Catch a Lift. The organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support to post 9/11 combat-wounded military personnel, aiding in their physical and mental recovery.

Montell joined a gym in Austin, Texas. He recovered so well that he got himself certified as a personal trainer — so he could help others.

When Catch a Lift officials asked him to share his story, he became a public speaker. Now he too is a board member.

Jeremiah Montell working out in one activity …

That’s just the bare outline of Montell’s amazing story. On Saturday, November 11 (7 to 11 p.m., Birchwood Country Club) he’ll share it with Westport.

The 3rd annual event promises to be the best one yet. It’s a chance to meet inspiring veterans, eat, drink and dance.

This will be Montell’s 3rd visit here. Westport has a special place in his heart. It was one of the first places he spoke. And his reception here has been uplifting.

“I’ve gotten so much from so many people there — professionals in the fitness industry, and private citizens,” he says.

“They turn out. They want to hear our stories. And they want to  help.”

Montell calls Westport “a beautiful town. But it’s a town of real people. I know they’re busy. But they take time to come, and ask thoughtful questions. They really understand we’re going through physical and mental things. They want to be a part of my life. I’m really fortunate to have that little town on my side.”

… and another.

2016 was a milestone year for Catch a Lift. The organization raised $1 million — of which 91% goes to help veterans.

“These great men and women need our support,” says Westporter Adam Vengrow, a national board member who is instrumental in every local event.

“We’re fighting suicide, PTSD, alcohol and drug abuse, severe weight gain, physical injuries including multiple limb losses and severe burns, plus much more. Together, we make a difference right here.”

Local businesses, gyms, the Westport Police Department, first responders, VFW and many others continue to help. But over 500 veterans are on Catch a Lift’s wait list.

In addition to ticket sales for the Veterans Day event, Vengrow seeks auction donations and program ads. Click here for more information.

“Twice a year, we bring veterans from all over the country to Westport,” he notes.

“We open our doors, we thank them for their service, we offer a hug. They leave with a lasting thought that Westport is unlike any other place in the country.

In the middle of town, he adds, “our bridge is filled with American flags. There are peaceful protesters from left and right at various times there. But everyone comes together in patriotism, and support for the men and women who protect us, in the hope of an even brighter future for our country and the generations behind us. I love Westport!”

In fact, Adam Vengrow loves Westport almost as much as Jeremiah Montell.

10 responses to “Jeremiah Montell Catches A Westport Lift

  1. Carl Addison Swanson

    Being a Vietnam VET myself and volunteer at the VA Hospital, I am encouraged and gladdened by Jeremiah’s story. That said, there are over 16,000 Veteran charities. Research shows that “Catch A Lift” is actually a “dba” for the Christopher Coffland Memorial Fund, out of Maryland, with revenues of $941,850 for 2016 with salaries and “other expenses” of over $358,079 which is not exactly the 90% contribution level they advertise. Further, it is not rated by Charity Navigator. Want to really help a VET? Hire one.

    • Amazing Carl, well id like to sit down with uou and walk through those numbers. First, thank you for your service. Second, we have actually employed Veterans innthe program to help other Veterans. Im sure that you could understand that programs dont run themselves. Third, in order to be rated by Charity Navigator you need at least 2 years of top line numbers over 1 million dollars. However, you can look at and see our rating there. Fourth, before you throw stones at something that is all volunteer and has helped 3,000 Veterans to which i can get many on the phone with you, i would invite you to come to one of our events at the VFw Post 399 where we bring Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans to meet local Vietnam/Korea/Gulf and WW2 Veterans. There are actually nearly 40,000 Veterans charities. Ours has nearly the lowest cost per Veteran than most others because we pride ourselves on being there for the dark moments our Veterans go through at spontaneous times. Im sorry for the black mark in Americas history and the way Vietnam Veterans were treated. Its disgusting and its part of the motivation that drives all our support system in this town. If you want to throw stones, im happy to break down every piece of information about us and what we have accomplished in just 7 years of existence started by a woman who lost her brother to an IED blast and took a 50% paycut to work 15 hour days 7 days a week to help his brothers and sisters. You are also invited as my guest to our event and you van meet every person that runs CAL and the 20 Veterans in the program joining us. It would be a pleasure to discuss in more detail.

    • Mr. Swanson: You stated that Catch a Lift does not operate with the 90% contribution level it advertises. In fact, it operates with a 91.5% contribution level (also known as “financial efficiency ratio”). In 2016, the president of Catch a Lift received a $75,000 salary while all other employees were paid $105,000 in total, as reported on the organization’s 2016 IRS Form 990. These salaries are in no way extravagant, as your comment seemed to suggest.

      Catch a Lift (legal name: Christopher Coffland Memorial Fund, Inc.) uses the donations it receives prudently. It is a respectable charitable organization that deserves our support.

      — Elaine

      • Thank you Elaine, transparency is everything. We are a mostly volunteer organization and happy to open up any information to anyone. As well, Lynn Coffland will be in Westport on Veterans Day. She works and serves America’s great men and women tirelessly and selflessly, and is excited to share some incredible updates we have had over the past year.

      • Carl Addison Swanson

        Ms. Marino: Form 990 indicates $195,155 was paid in salaries in 2016 along with $162,924 in “other expenses” which totals $358,079, more than 1/3 of the $965,563 in revenue. Please excuse my analysis but I am a former federal bank fraud attorney and donated generously to the Wounded Warriors Project, only to find that a measly 15 cents of every dollar goes to us VETS. Further, I question why the legal name is different from what you are asking for us to donate? Is the money split between the two funds? From the reaction here, I find folks pretty chippy about questioning your financials and status. Not a good sign. For the readers, take a look at the Semper Fi Fund, which is truly an outstanding VET charity.

        • Carl Addison Swanson

          P.S. And before you attempt to bite my head off again, I chair the Dale Hopkins Memorial Fund, in honor of a two tour-twice wounded Vietnam Marine who was also a Staples classmate (’66). We conduct an annual golf tournament which raises money for the Semper Fi Fund with 100% of donations going to the charity and I underwrite all the expenses out of my own pocket.

          • Adam Vengrow

            Carl, take my email I have worked in finance in New York for 22 years and break down and analyze companies. I reviewed financials specifically looking for use of funding and comp. For some reason you have the desire to throw stones at something you have topically spent 30 minutes on, if that. You want to take away from Vets that we help, keep the negativity. If you want to learn about an organization that is recommended by the VA (and that is factual), we can talk through and look through any aspect you like. I spend 20 hours a week working for something that has proven success. The salaries are minimal, and we have a number of Veterans now working with and for CAL, and the $162k for the programs, well give me your time and we can gladly go through any and all of it. You gave generously to Wounded Warriors and taking it out on the wrong fund. Here to talk anytime. Adam Vengrow

        • Mr. Swanson: Please know that I have no connection to Catch A Lift other than the fact that my husband and I are ordinary donors.

          I agree with you that it is prudent to understand how efficient a charitable organization uses its donated funds. I have reviewed Catch a Lift’s 2016 IRS Form 990 and audit documents, which are available online. I did not see any of the typical “red flags” that could indicate that a charity does not use its donated funds efficiently, such as excessive amounts spent on management compensation or professional fundraising services, etc. I believe that Catch a Lift is an organization worthy of the public’s support.

  2. Dan, thanks for the incredible story, Jeremiah is an amazing human being. Serving in both the Marine Corp and then re-enlisting in the Navy, he has seen and done it all. What we find most incredible is that severe head trauma from miltiple IED blasts still is an ongoing battle, he has climbed out of the dark himself and can live a life with his beautiful wife and 2 kids. Now, he is EMPLOYED by CAL to help pull others out in the path that he found. Our Westport team is awesome. My partner and board member Andy Berman, Joyrides Rhodie and Marni, Achieve, Revel, Westport Police VFW Post 399, and many more. Everybody is a volunteer and its us that are touched and honored to get to know these great men and women.

  3. One other point of note, Catch A Lift was ecstatic to be accepted into the Bob Woodruff Foundations grant program this year. Thousands of Veterans charities apply and through extensive analysis and a total review of every financial and non-financial aspect of the organization, Catch A Lift (which is the Christopher Coffland Memorial Fund) was chosen. We have so many Veterans to help and we will not stop until we can help every one of them.