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Meet Gerry DeRoche of NEADS World Class Service Dogs in Princeton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gerry DeRoche.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
For many years I was a banker in Boston, where mergers and downsizing were a large part of daily life as the industry underwent dramatic changes.

In 2007 I decided to change careers and do something with a social purpose. I consulted for a few years to not for profits. In 2010 I joined NEADS as its CEO. For me, it was a perfect fit: One of its programs provides dogs to individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired. My father was profoundly hard of hearing. They train dogs. As a family, we love dogs and have two golden retrievers. Finally, NEADS provides the opportunity to interact with clients while they live on campus during their training.

Has it been a smooth road?
Fortunately, throughout my career, I worked for a number of wonderful organizations and had outstanding bosses and mentors as I rose through the ranks to become an Executive Vice President at Fleet Bank and then Bank of America. Perhaps the biggest challenge that I faced in banking were the seemingly endless mergers and right-sizing as we worked to keep pace with a general industry trend of bank consolidation and a movement toward technology and less personal interface with customers.

The biggest challenge in the not for profit world is fulfilling your mission with limited resources while working side by side with staff and volunteers who are extremely passionate about their efforts. In many ways this is far more challenging than my first career; however, it is also far more rewarding.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the NEADS World Class Service Dogs story. Tell us more about the business.
NEADS is a pioneer and innovator in the Service Dog industry. Each year we produce about 50 World Class Service Dogs that are matched with our clients from across the United States. In fact, we started the industry 40 years ago as part of a class experiment in a local junior college. Until that time there were only guide dog organizations that assisted individuals who were blind. In 2018 we expect to graduate our 1800th client pair.

Today, based on our campus in Princeton, Massachusetts, we offer 11 different Service Dog programs. Our trainers prepare inmates in prisons throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island to train our purpose-bred dogs for their roles as service dogs. In addition to being a leader and pioneer, we are an innovator: Our Trauma Assistance Dog program is the first and most comprehensive program in the country matching service dogs to OEF and OIF veterans with PTSD.

I am most proud that we will not sacrifice quality, which is at the core of everything our brand stands for.

Where do you see your industry going over the next 5-10 years?  Any big shifts, changes, trends, etc?
The Service Dog “industry” will continue to grow over the next 5-10 years as more people realize the benefits a well-trained Service Dog can provide.

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